Every day when I begin my perusal of the New York Times, I page to the obits first, expertly skirting the hard-core depressing war and/or political articles. I know it sounds morbid, but I’m looking for something in particular. No, not if I personally knew the person (no one I know is going to be listed in the NYT when they pass), nor am I looking for the celebrity whose death will feel like an impersonal but still harsh kick in my emotional stomach.
I’m looking to see the age of each person who passed away. On a good day, the majority of the dearly departed, while being celebrated for one accomplishment or another, are well above eighty years old.
I’m not sure exactly how I infer a positive line from their departing experience to the timing of my future demise. It’s undoubtedly illogical to think I might live longer if a bunch of other people lived longer. I know, I know, it doesn’t compute, but it makes me feel I might live a longer life if they did — regardless of our disparate heritage, habits, or health. (I’m sure I’ve devoured more cheeseburgers than most famous people whose passing is immortalized in such a well-known rag.)
Why don’t I look closer to home and try to make the same inference from nearby friends and acquaintances? That would be too intimate, I suspect. If I know someone who has passed into the other realm, I’m sad because they went too soon, whether sixty or ninety-five years old!
Sometimes in the NYT I see people who have died in their sixties and, wholey moley, even their fifties! This is scary because it could happen to me. Don’t give me that “she’s truly crazy” stare! It’s an irrational emotional fear; I’ve already admitted as much.
I think about death and I bet most people my age (sixty-eight and a half!) think about it from time to time. I have difficulty believing it when I hear someone say, “It’s out of my hands and will happen when it’s supposed to.” My first reaction is a hefty level of skepticism at the nonchalance these perfectly calm people express in this statement (and I secretly wish I could be like them).
I agree that worrying about the timing of my passing isn’t a productive use of time. And, yes, I wish I could be less intense about the end of my residence on earth. In the meanwhile, I’m going to continue to sprint to the obituary column in the NYT, knowing for a multitude of reasons that I’ll never see MY name there.