Philip Roth: Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre.
Alright now, thanks to a friend I just finished this book pictured to the left. Being Mortal discusses death and how it should be handled by all parties involved: doctors, friends, family, etc. The unfortunate truth is that we will not live forever. Knowing that we should be prepared. I mean, shouldn't we have the right to die on our own terms?
Nobody lives forever (no matter how many times you take your vitamins and say your prayers). We wear down and wear down until we can't wear down anymore. There was once a time when death was accepted stoically. It was accepted without fear or self pity. There was only hope that you've done enough to gain forgiveness from your God in the afterlife. Those days are no more. Enter a nursing home and see that there is a certain amount of hopelessness in those places. There was also a time when family took in the dying. Gawande grew up in India and one thing his father noticed when he moved to the states is how independent life has become in America. Modernization led to a decrease in the role that family plays during a time of death. Families looked elsewhere for care of the elderly or ill family members. When this occurs, all autonomy is lost for the sick. They lose control of their life. Their life is now under the control of a medical professional who focuses on repairing health. They are dumped into facilities without much social interaction. Over time, this wears on the individual. There is no medication for the soul. There is an amazing story about a facility managing the elderly who saw a huge decrease in perceived pain and decreased medication. What brought it all on? Two dogs and 100 birds. Life repairs life.
There is one recurring theme throughout this book and it involves courage. Author Atul Gawande is a doctor. He spent his early years practicing medicine telling patients what they wanted to hear. He was not always 100% honest. The truth could have been devastating and he avoided being blatantly honest. He lacked courage in that regard. Over time, he realized that the patients who had the best end of their life were the ones who displayed courage. They had the courage to confront the reality of their own mortality and the courage to seek out the truth from their doctor. If that doctor didn't give it to them, they often went elsewhere. Gawande realized this when his own father became ill. They explored any, and every option imaginable to make his final days the best they could be. And this is where the lesson comes in. Often times it is perspective that needs to be adjusted, and unfortunately, it usually takes a near death experience for your perspective to change. I know this is true in my life. So be courageous, do not hesitate to seek out the truth, and keep an open mind. You never know when a life-altering event will change your story forever!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!