I said goodbye to my father-in-law yesterday. He’s dying of congestive heart failure and fluid in his lungs and will not last much longer, so I and my wife and kids drove up past Sacramento on Monday and spent time with him on Tuesday. He’s worn down and worn out; arthritis and back surgery, macular degeneration, gall bladder removal, and is no longer eating. He just turned 91 years old, and his rapid decline just started about 3 weeks ago. He’s had a good life, and in these last years while living on my sister-in-law’s property, in his own house, he had a reason to get up each day. He went to aqua aerobics 6 days a week, feed the animals every morning, volunteered with the City of Hope and was active in a couple of service groups. All this to say that even though his body was wearing out, his spirit wasn’t. When we were talking yesterday, his lament wasn’t that he was dying, it was that he couldn’t continue doing all the things he was doing last month.
It took my mother 2 years to die. She slowly deteriorated in an assisted living facility, wheelchair and dementia-bound, a shell of a person with no purpose or reason to live, yet continuing to exist day after day. She had to be cared for, unable to take care of herself. My father-in-law lived on his own, cared for himself and cared for others. It is obvious there was a difference in the quality of life between the two. Research shows that how well you take care of yourself between the ages of 40 and 60 has a direct effect on the length and quality of your disability in the last years of your life.
So my question to you is, “how well are you taking care of yourself today?” Do you care for others and do you have multiple reasons to get up each day? As we grow older, it’s not about age, it’s about mileage. Check your pulse. If you’re alive, then your mission on earth isn’t finished, but don’t let the mark you want to leave in the world be a dent in the couch.