It is dependent on how you look at things! Death need not be taken too seriously!
I read an article about ageing and merging back with nature. The article was in Marathi, and the title was आकाश झाकोळत जाणार (Skies will darken now!) …….Humans have always been curious about, death; in fact, we are scared about dying. When we talk of death, thinking is quite negative. Death is the final goodbye; it is THE truth. It is the only event other than birth, which has no two sides. But does it mean that we should fear the event? Should we fear the journey to the final destination? Starting with the title, the tone and the thought process in the article was sad; but this article shared some interesting aspects.
With the fear in mind, we think about future life in a depressed mindset. We say that we have to accept whatever is written in our destiny. We could be lonely, and there could be none to look after us and so on. I would instead prepare myself and help others prepare differently. Some of the things I mention have already been said and discussed, but I am hoping to set the right tone; the positive tone is the way forward.
Journey back home is not a new concept; it is inevitable, but we do not need to await it. When we are young and taking education, we don’t plan for retirement. We try to visualise what shape our career will take and what could we do it to make it better. Similarly, we should try and imagine what our path should be, post-retirement. Many new things are doable. Then there is the bucket list. We should look at the concept of a bucket list with a variation. What after all is a bucket list? A bucket list is a collection number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during a lifetime. I would call it a wish list. But this should be done with happiness. Even if you do not achieve it, you should not be sad about it.
I only had one item in the bucket list. To go and see the world cup one-day final match, sitting in a stadium. I managed it in 2015 when we watched the final at MCG, Melbourne in Australia! Is bucket list about money? Yes and no. Many a time it may so happen that we may have the money but may not have time or health to do it. One need not be sad if the full bucket list is not tick-marked. It is how we plan and accept the way dice falls is more critical. In the post-retirement phase, honestly, there is nothing to achieve. At the same time, there should be no fear in our mind.
In the last 2/3 months, one of my close friends, and my rakhi sister suddenly expired. Besides these two, 3 to 4 others died; some were batch mates, and one was a neighbour. Should such events affect us? Do they affect us? Yes, they do affect us but why should we be afraid of the inevitable. For records purpose, my sister was the youngest of the lot; she was 67. At my age the deaths of contemporaries are natural, and it is not a shock.
In some cases, people are unwell for a period, and we are not aware of their condition. We do not need to be “prepared” for that. We should take it in stride! During our education, we learn that humans live up to the age of 100! This is the age up to which people may live, but this % is tiny! In India, at my age, we are in bonus period, as life expectancy for males in India is 65, currently. When you are on an extended lease what is there to be afraid?
The article also mentioned that when we are born, we always have a mother’s love! How many people my age can even hope of having a mother’s love today! Such an emotional statement brings a melancholy feeling in life. The article further said that you should be prepared to be alone because there is a chance that your spouse may go before you! Oh, come on! It is known and there no point getting emotional about possibilities.
The article also talks about our ego coming in between, and we start feeling that we are know-alls! I have discussed with doctors and psychiatrists; our fundamental nature does not change much, as we grow old. There is a possibility that you may talk a little more because you meet fewer people as you grow and many of your contemporaries are either less mobile or maybe they have passed. I know someone who is around 85 years of age. When I met him recently, he kept on talking about whatever he wanted to say! But this has been his nature all the time. I asked his daughter, who is a doctor if this is due to old age; she said, “Kaka, he has been the same all these years. Previously we used to tell to allow others to speak; now we don’t tell him.” Personally, Jaya and I meet people from different age groups quite often. We can discuss appropriate subjects with them as we have ensured that we also broaden our horizon as we grow. Broadening our horizons is another key to prepare the path to the final journey.
The most critical aspect of this phase is that we do not know the endpoint. So what is the idea of thinking about it, all the time? What is a point in thinking that we will be forced to live alone, we may be bed-ridden and so on! It is like trying to live a bad dream all the time; do you remember the story of Shaikh Mohamad? Such a thought process is living your bad dream all the time, the reverse of Shaikh Mohamad’d dream. What do we achieve by such thinking?
But we need to be pragmatic. Make sure (as far as possible) that you are financially independent. Do not expect that your children will come and do chores for you. You need to create your own ecosystem to run your home. Technology is changing fast, remain up to date as far as possible at least for basic stuff.
With age, your responses like eyesight, hearing and balance can deteriorate. Accept it and find a solution for yourself. Each person has individual needs, and there is no universal solution. Your children will be busy in their own lives (as you were when you were young) so don’t bother them.
I read the story of a Marathi film, “Bucket List”. A lady gets a new heart by a heart transplant surgery. She meets the family of the 20-year-old donor after six months, whose heart she received. The donee finds that the donor had a bucket list of things she wanted to complete by the age of 21! The donee takes efforts to achieve the list in six months. The donee is double the age of the donor, but still, she manages it. See how beautiful this thought is. The donee keeps all her priorities aside to reach the goal of the donor! Sacrifice for others; nothing can be better than this thought process.
Ye, try to look at the funny side of things. Don’t be serious all the time!
Create a bucket list for the long term, but you can create a wish-list daily and try to achieve it. When you do this, you have something to look forward! Your wishlist maybe, I will go alone, to the bank ATM and withdraw money! What these lists will do is to keep you with something to look forward to, take you away from negative thinking; life will look better and better as you manage to achieve this. Please remember that bucket list a good, but it is not a serious thing. Keep your humorous side alive!
Journey back home is a fact of life. Plan it, discuss it, share it by all means! We share life details with others all the time as we did in the younger phase. But don’t be sad about the whole process. Were we sad when we discussed education plans? Did we feel uneasy when we discussed migration in younger days? I will share a secret with you. When you finally take off, you don’t even feel and know about the event! This is of course here say but ..