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Aging Matters: Living is about more than existence

  • Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012, at 12 a.m.

The medical profession has made humongous strides since my generation first slipped into the world. In the early 1900s, the old country doctor’s bag brought only ether and iodine.

You’d need more than fingers and toes to even begin tabulating all that century’s medical advances. And they continue. One day we’ll not have cancer. Or diabetes. Or Parkinson’s.

But I have one serious reservation, although I hesitate to admit it. I’m not convinced the medical profession has done all us old people a favor by keeping us existing long after we’ve ceased living. We’re talking End of Life issues — our own final days. My concern is the gulf that separates “living” from “existing.”

We live when we can enjoy what we see, hear, feel, taste or smell, even though we might not have full use of all those natural senses. To live is to eat and sleep, sing and pray, feel and express love.

We can exist with machines moving life’s flow through vital organs. With needles and tubes invading every body orifice, we can exist. But without hope for a future, existing is not living.

I consider prolonging hopeless existence nothing more than a selfish act of loved ones unwilling to give us up, or the medical profession refusing to admit defeat.

Must I be forced to endure that insult to life? Not if I can help it. My time will come; so will yours. But this is now. Time to put our wishes on notarized paper while we can to designate powers of attorney covering healthcare as well as legal matters. To convert bank and investment accounts to free funds to pay expenses our departure generates. High time to make our memorial preferences known.

I speak for myself, and my Living Will speaks for me when I cannot, including the DNR that respects my right to life over existence. When I’m past living, please — liberate me. Just let me slip away. Thank you.

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

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