Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Thinking about death

Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Thinking about death

Natalie Gelman

The awareness and focus on people I was familiar with who died continued as a theme in my life.

In 2012, I wrote this:

      Marvin Hamlish died yesterday. He was 68. He died of an undisclosed illness that he had for three years.

      It caught my attention. I do not often think about dying and feel sad or scared at the prospect. And sad or scared are words that are too strong to describe how I felt. The best description is that is made me think about me dying too.

      I do not dwell on this topic. I told my kids that I do not want a funeral, but I support whatever they need to do after my death. They will decide if a get together to be with friends, family is meaningful. I did ask that they serve popcorn and play Free Cell. Erik and Julie laughed; Carrie was unhappy with me talking about the subject flippantly. I told her I was not being flippant. She asked that we cease the conversation at that time but was willing to discuss it on a subsequent occasion.

      I think about my death, but I do not feel afraid or preoccupied about it. Usually something occurs to precipitate my thoughts.

      I am aware that pain and foot swelling caused me to call the doctor today. I have tried to treat it by taking ibuprofen and raising my foot when I am sitting, but it appears to be an ongoing problem and I decided it is time to have it diagnosed. I am traveling to Michigan in two weeks and I prefer not having problems on my trip. My left foot started to hurt intensely yesterday and I had done nothing but walk. That concerned me. It lasted through the night, but after wearing a firmer shoe and going to Curves, it feels very tolerable.

      And so the physical issues surface and I pay more attention than I used to. Fortunately I am not preoccupied or frightened. I want to remain able to do what I choose physically and not be limited by pain. That is a whole new world for me and one I prefer not to enter.

I watched a documentary about Philip Roth, the writer. I then wrote the following:

      Philip Roth was interviewed on the "American Masters" television show on March 29, 2013. He talked about aging and said it is like losing his magic. “Old age is a massacre.”

      He said he does not want to know about old age until he gets there because knowing what will happen is too unsettling.

      Around 80 years old, he is rereading his favorite books that he read 30-50 years ago. He said that he wants to read them as an old man before he dies.

      His sadness about aging was marked when he said he goes to funerals every six months for friends and it is very painful losing friends.

      “The prospect of death generates fear, sadness and the desire to have the whole thing all over again.” He noted that time is running out and there is nothing he can do about it.

      At the end of the interview, he decided to provide an ending. He said, “It is about the poor old guy who is going to die.”

Natalie Gelman can be contacted at Her website is


Submitted by louise goeckel (not verified) on Thu, Jun 5, 2014

Have you experienced attending one to the new "Death Cafe" events held periodically in Alameda? Google this, if it's new to you. It is a great new opportunity for sharing and exploring ideas and perspectives with other people of all ages. It is happening in communities across the country and world. The next one in Alameda will be Sunday, 6/8/2014 starting at 2pm, ending at 4pm held in the back yard Cottage at the Home of Truth on Grand Ave.