This week I saw the newly released movie The Intern starring Anne Hathaway and Academy Award winning actor Robert De Niro. De Niro plays a bored retired phone book executive and widower who takes a job as an intern for a hot-shot CEO of an online clothing company. The comedy is worth seeing and has some funny, as well as heartwarming moments. But the portion of the story that stood out for me—is that De Niro’s character kept talking about how many of his friends’ funerals he would go to. Almost on a weekly basis—another friend would die.
Since I founded Aegis Living, a senior assisted living company serving about 2,000 residents on the west coast, I have sat down and chatted with hundreds of residents. We’ve had candid conversations about aging and I’ve asked them, “What’s the worst part of aging?” Almost universally, I get this same answer.
It is not that you can’t do the same things you used to be able to do—that is expected. One of the most difficult aspects in life’s journey is that you are constantly attending the funerals of friends and family that you grew up with. Sometimes, you’re even mourning your own children-which is one of the most painful losses. It’s as if you are constantly reminded about your mortality. Even though you’re alive and perhaps even healthy, people are reminded that we are on that same treadmill heading in the same direction. There is no escaping fate.
In the last 11 weeks I have lost 8 friends to cancer. One just 8 hours before writing this blog which is probably the reason that prompted me to sit down and put my thoughts on paper. Two of my friends were in their 80’s. The other six ranged from 53 years old to their mid-70’s. This is the most number of people that I have ever experienced losing in such a concentrated period of time in my life. And it doesn’t seem to stop, just as one dies, I have three more friends with a bad diagnosis.
So I have to ask myself, At 56, have I entered that period of aging? Will I continue to see this kind of loss around me? Will people I know continue to pass at this rapid rate? Is this the norm? I don’t know. But the series of losses make me pause and think about a lot things, such as my own mortality.
I ask myself, Am I using time well? What will my legacy be? Will I have contributed to this planet in a productive way? I hope so.