The sign on the door said, “The Oldies Club”, Must Be At Least Three Score and Ten.
I opened the door and entered a large dimly lit room where six people, three men and three women, were sitting in a circle in deep discussion. They all stopped talking and looked at me. I explained I was thinking of joining the club and would they mind if I sat in the back and listened for a while.
They all smiled at me and nodded, pointing to a chair in the corner.
They introduced themselves to me. First, there was Dave, who had sparse grey hair and blemishes and age spots on his hands and face. He had two canes hanging on the back of his chair.
Then there was Tom, balding with deep wrinkles covering his face. But he had a twinkle in his eyes. He also had a cane hanging on his chair.
And then Jim, he had a big smile but it was almost toothless. He was in a wheelchair.
There was Martha, heavy-set and jolly with strands of grey hair hanging down on her face. She had a Zimmer frame parked at the side of her chair.
Next was Alice, she stammered when she talked and she had a thin face etched with wrinkles.
Lastly there was Mabel, her abundant grey hair was tied into a bun and she had a stern face. She reminded me of one of my old school teachers. She had an extremely thick cane hanging on her chair.
They all turned away from me and Dave said: “Okay, back to our discussion, what was it now? Oh yes, the positive self-talk needed to counter the fear of death!”
“I don’t fear death, it’s just the sickness, pain and suffering before death that bothers me,” said Mabel.
Alice spoke up: “Yes, I agree with Mabel. There is no pain in death, just nothingness.”
“Well, what bothers me,” said Jim, “ is the fear of not existing anymore, you know, a permanent end to life.”
‘I fear the unknown aspect of death, is there an afterlife or what will happen after death?” said Martha.
Tom commented: “What I fear is the loneliness connected with losing my loved ones and friends and I’m left!”
Alice started coughing which interrupted the discussion. She took some pills. She then took a deep breath and mumbled: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a peaceful natural death?”
“Peaceful natural death, what’s that?” said Dave angrily. “All the oldies I’ve seen die have been sick, crippled and in the throes of dementia. They were soiling their beds and they were lonely and enduring extreme pain. It’s a slow agonizing process, which I want to avoid!”
They all stared at Dave, some shaking their heads and some nodding.
“What are you suggesting, Dave?” said Martha.
“If I end up like I just described, I would want to choose to die instead of enduring the lack of dignity and extreme pain of the dying process. I think we have the right to choose the time and conditions of our death!”
Jim said: “I feel the same way as Dave. I had a dream the other night that I was trapped in my wheelchair. I was in pain and I was slowly losing my memory. It was a terrible nightmare!”
Dave continued: “What I’m suggesting is called Self-Deliverance. It’s the taking of your own life to escape the suffering, pain and loss of your quality of life.”
“It’s not a nice thing to think about,” said Tom, “but you would want to stay alive as long as you enjoy your life.”
“Of course Tom, that’s what I mean, if you have your hobbies and people around you and can control your pain, your quality of life would still be there. So, consequently, you naturally would want to continue on as long as possible.”
Alice spoke up, slowly slurring her words: “I am in the first stages of dementia. I know it’s progressive and eventually I will lose all quality of life, but I don’t know if I could end my own life or be assisted!”
“That’s entirely your choice, Alice. All I’m saying is, we should all have the choice of when and how we die.”
Jim started laughing and said: “All I know is, I know I’m old because it takes longer for me to rest than to get tired!”
“Leave it to you Jim, to lighten things up.”
Tom joined in: “Every afternoon I have a happy hour just like my pub, it’s called a NAP!”
The whole club laughed.
Dave ended the discussion: “We all have to tell ourselves that we will stay alive as long as we ENJOY our life. It’s what we say to ourselves in response to any situation that determines our moods and feelings.”
Then Dave turned to me and said: “Well, are you going to join our club?”
As I walked out the door, I said: “I’m only 69, maybe I’ll see you in a year!”