HOW GO YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

For this reason, I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the entire truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times can you ask before you realize you aren’t going to discover more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died last year of a heart attack. I only found out when her mother called to tell me. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age or disease can do you in at any point in your life. You don’t have to get old. You can be 21, an athlete, and collapse on the court.

The Dark Lord will have his way. When and how it hits you is partly how you used your body and your DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

Then again, are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who also love you? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable anyway.

Enjoy your years, however many you have. And while you are at it, be nice to the people you know and especially those who love you and who you love. Kindness is the least expensive and most valuable gift we have to give.

Categories: Health, Life, Paths, Photography

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24 replies

  1. Amen to this! Kindness never hurt anybody and I’ve learned that being unhappy and fostering feelings of hate or a lack of warmth are like ‘shooting in your own foot’…. In the UK I had a quite ill friend who was – at a certain time of her life as a highly professional and competitive worker – often the target of bad talk by work collegues etc. Being a tough and unsentimental but thoroughly decent and hard working person with serious health issues made that friend the but of unkind and hurting remarks and thoughts. Once she shocked me by saying: Oh, I’m not getting mad, I’ll be getting even! I never looked at things in that way and asked her if she was serious. And she said she was…. absolutely! We didn’t get into the details but I thought for myself that I wouldn’t want her to be my enemy.


  2. I certainly agree with the last paragrah,. since that is the whole story pretty much: party on and be excellent to one another, and enjoy everything. I have that quirky circumstance of having been dead three times already in this life, and what seems to matter is the wisdom, compassion, and skillful means, like they say in buddhism and other beliefs–but Bill and Ted did say it well too!


    • Those of us who have technically died and been revived have a special relationship with death. For one thing, not only CAN it happen, but it has. So we do what we can with what we have. Enjoy as much as can be enjoyed and move on. I’m not sure there’s anything else to BE done.


  3. This is a lovely and meaningful post, Marilyn. So awful that young people like that lose hope and commit suicide. A great tragedy.


  4. So sad when young people have lost all hope and that does happen.


  5. This is the most sense I’ve read in a long time, Marilyn, and it reminded me of some people I’ve lost too. When I was engaged for the first time to a biker called Mark, we were only around 20 when Mark’s younger brother was killed when his motorcycle was hit by a skip truck. He was less than a mile from home and was on his way back from his interview for 6th form. He was only 17.
    Also, on the subject of health, my dad’s cousin was in his early 40s when, just one week after being pronounced A1 Fit in a medical, he dropped dead on the squash court of a heart attack.
    You’re right, none of us knows how long we’ve got. We should just be grateful that we’re here while we are, and to cherish everything we have and everyone who love us and that we love.

    A gem of wisdom. Thanks. 🙂


    • It was really written as much as a self-reminder that however much discomfort life feels, I could be dead. So many people I used to know are and many of them died while quite young. I sometimes need to remind ME that being alive is the bottom line and if it is possible, we need to hang on to it and not drown.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It seems to be that time when I’m losing friends, one my age and another younger this year. I”m seeing my doctor this morning for a check up, and I’ m sure there will be things to find besides my always high blood pressure. And so it goes.


    • I sometimes feel a need to remind ME that I’m alive because sometimes, just trudging on feels painful, exhausting, and more than a little futile. They keep fixing us, you know? I do hope they know when it’s time to STOP fixing us.


  7. Living in a small town in a small country and everyone knowing almost everyone else, and all growing old together, it really hits the mark at the moment. What is the first (and sometimes the only) page I read in the daily local newspaper, yes the obits: sad but true.


  8. This is an important reminder and so well-said, Marilyn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I originally wrote it for myself. A lot of me hurts pretty much all the time, so sometimes I need to remind myself the alternative isn’t all that charming either. And at a time when everywhere I look someone has cancer, a heart condition, or something else potentially lethal — I’m still here. Pain and agony and all.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A beautiful post and absolutely spot on. Kindness doesn’t cost anything and is the most valuable and lasting gift. Thanks for sharing


  10. I follow my mom’s attitude: when it’s your time, it’s your time. She never worried much about death because she knew it would come sooner or later and that most of us have no real control over the “when.” I can remember a young family that was killed because they were stopped at a traffic light, just before a bridge, and a semi fell off the bridge and crushed their car. We followed that route often as a family, and it could just as easily have been us, but for timing. Mom just said she guessed it wasn’t our time to go. While I’m prepared for death, and have made arrangements for final disposition of my remains, I try not to dwell on it too much. It will come when it comes – hopefully not too soon, but there’s not much I can really do about it. If I wake up in the morning, for now that’s good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure there’s any better way to look at life. I remember when Garry friend from work died on her way to work at a bus stop in Cambridge. She was 43 and as far as anyone knew, absolutely fine. I was a little bit older and it reminded me to stop whining and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very true Marilyn. None of us know how long we have and that’s a good thing. We should make the most of it

    Liked by 1 person


  1. IN THE SPIRIT OF DOING WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING … Marilyn Armstrong | Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

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