Today I had my annual physical. Decades of my life went by without much care for this irksome event, but now I’m grateful when my doctor lets me go for six months without seeing her. Everything went very well, but I still need to visit a bevy of specialists, since this is The Year of Many Tests, so I will see my radiologist, optometrist, and, alas, gastroenterologist within the next couple of months. Once again, my doctor talked to me about a Living Will, and for the first time, I paid attention.
A few months ago, our life insurance agent contacted us to let us know that our term life insurance would expire next year. When you’re just starting out, life insurance seems like your Get Out of Jail Free card in case of some extraordinary catastrophe. A stay-at-home mom with young kids needs to able to stay in her house if she suddenly becomes a single mom. Now that David and I have buried all of our parents, though, we have a very accurate picture of the expenses incurred at the end of a life in America. It’s obscene. Between the cost of critical care at a hospital and the funeral director’s horrifying ideas of a decent burial, including a medallion with the dearly departed’s fingerprint (yuck!), your loved ones can be left with staggering bills. Keeping up one’s medical insurance is essential, but carrying huge life insurance policies is crazy, so we are figuring out the ethics and necessities for a time when we won’t be here.
David and I had a conversation recently in which I fretted that I would die before I figured everything out—life, death, afterlife, the universe, why we put vegetable scraps into the compost pile every single day but never get compost—all that stuff. Perhaps I am the only one, but I never feel spiritual enough or wise enough for someone who has lived for almost six decades. With all the reading, studying, and praying I’ve done, surely I should be floating through life a few inches above the ground, looking serene and spouting philosophical gems. Instead, I am increasingly aware of all that I don’t know, all the books I haven’t read, and all the time I didn’t spend serving in soup kitchens but instead did laundry.
At the same time, I don’t “think” old. Sometimes I feel old, but not much. This is the secret of old age: you are still the same person. I read a lot of children’s and teens’ books, so maybe my brain stays in that space. Furthermore, I don’t have anyone calling me Grandma—yet. I still listen to the same kinds of music that I have for years, which grows ever more raucous, even though people seem to think that your music should get quieter with age. I even thought of a tiny, little “righteous Hebrew tat” that I could put in a discreet place. Then I took a good look at the state of my skin and thought, “Ew. No.” I do wish that more people would consider this. I recently saw a woman in a parking lot who had obviously lived a rugged life under the sun with a full-sleeve tattoo on one arm. It needed ironing.
It is boringly responsible to take care of the practical details that aging brings, but there’s no reason stop living with gusto. I have not been able to save the world yet, but perhaps that’s not why I’m here. However, being an excellent wife to my husband is something no one else can do, so I will do that. Tomorrow, I can go to work and choose brilliant new books that may improve the lives of thousands of children whom I may not know personally, but still care about deeply, and I will do that. I can find ways to show love to my wonderful family and friends and to the people in my little community, so I will do that, too. And of course, I will keep on praying and listening to what the Lord has to tell me. From what I hear about the afterlife He has planned, the future is looking bright.