In the early 80’s I owned and managed an apartment building in Reading, PA. One of my tenants, a 65-year old man, became a friend of mine and I would always check in on him when I would come into town. His life was fairly limited in most respects. He told me that the only thing that he enjoyed doing anymore was to walk down to a local pub and hang out with a few of his friends. Our relationship went on for a few months. Then one day when I visited him, he told me that he didn’t feel well. I suggested he go out and visit his buddies but he told me that not even that held any interest for him. I took note of this and tried to cheer him up but he just didn’t seem to have any interest in anything. I returned two days later to discover that he had passed away the day after I saw him. He had died in his sleep. This experience really struck me and showed me how we must have a reason to live in order to remain here on this beautiful earth.
The struggle of life against death begins at our birth and death is the inevitable winner. At birth and for the first 25-30 years of life, death takes a back seat. Life and growth are so abundant that death holds no apparent power over us. Death is merely a concept, one that we just cannot relate to. And we live our lives as though we will never die. We have all the time in the world.
As we approach our late 20’s, especially around age 28 when we experience our first Saturn Return, we begin to realize that we are not going to live forever. Some people begin experiencing health problems at that early age and so come to realize the value of life and health. But a great deal of us still go on, not realizing that death is becoming stronger each passing year. We don’t pay attention to the fact that some of our dreams have died and that we feel less alive in our day to day life. We just keep going, ignoring what is happening, and hoping that we will never have to deal with that concept.
In our 30’s this trend continues. But the 30’s usually bring a great deal of personal growth, experiences that cause us to age for the first time in our life. By the mid 30’s most men realize that their sexual desire is not what it used to be, if they haven’t realized it earlier. It takes more and more stimulation to achieve the same intensity of experience. Many people get married starting in their late 20’s and into their 30’s, sometimes for the 2nd or 3rd time. They are starting to see patterns of experience. Their lives no longer seem like an endless possibility of wonderful things. Now they are beginning to look like a pattern that keeps repeating itself, but perhaps getting a little heavier each year. ‘How many more times?’, they wonder. How many more cycles of this or that will I live to see before I die?
Somewhere in the 40s we realize that we are not young anymore. Some have chronic health problems or are on continual medication of one sort or another to maintain just below average health. For some of these, the chance of abundant health and energy has passed never to return. People get divided into two categories – those that exercise and feel good and those that don’t exercise and just don’t feel good. Daily health regime is a necessity now, if we are to feel alive and well to any extent. Death is waiting patiently. He has the upper hand now, we are on the defensive, perhaps for the first time.
In the 50’s many people die, especially around age 52. Those whose fight against death has failed pass away along with those who tire of the struggle. Now we must have a solid reason to live and this will remain this way for the rest of our life. Health concerns now affect us all at this age. No one escapes the aging process, though many fare better than others. Any trip to a high school class reunion will prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. From age 52 on, death becomes increasingly important and strong. He is slow and patient, and so his effects will be gradual. But any deviation from a high standard of body and mind maintenance will result in immediate and accelerated aging. Stress now is the major health and well-being factor. If we haven’t yet, we hook up with a doctor, and for most of us, a church.
And so it goes, death finally winning out in the end, claiming our body as his own. What are the signs that death is getting the upper hand?
1. The effort it takes to do things that are good for us such as exercise.
2. The lack of interest in things that younger and more lively people do.
3. The overall sense of resignation about the problems in our life.
Death will indeed get us all sooner or later. As we get older we must find an important reason or purpose to be here, as our life force weakens and death becomes stronger. Life is amazing, even the part when we get older and weaker. We become wiser as we get older and develop a more profound appreciation of our time on this earth as its close draws near. But never be deceived. Death is always there, waiting for us. And when our work here is done, he will be there to usher us into our next round.