Yesterday was one of those beautiful fall days in our Valley. When the air is crisp and clear, the sunlight turns trees and bushes into warm autumn pieces of art and the first chill of winter takes your breath away. On one of these days you see people wearing smiles on their faces and you feel simply more alive. You never know how many of these days there will be and you just don’t know how many of these days you will be part of. Think about it. We live on this beautiful planet and have done research on so many things, making mankind more knowledgeable than ever, but we haven’t found an answer yet to a question we all share.
It was this question that came up in a short conversation, while serving breakfast at Abbeyfield. Every Tuesday I visit the residents of this senior’s home and make breakfast for those who like bacon and eggs in the morning. When I walked one of the plates into the dining room, I overheard one lady ask another at her table: “When am I going to die?” It was such a simple question, but sounded intriguing to me and before I knew it I was in the middle of their conversation. They asked me: “Do you know when you are going to die, Helma?” You can guess what my answer was: “I am sure glad I don’t.” What about the next question: “What will it be like to die?” As this lady pointed out; no one ever comes back to tell us what it is like. The question made me chuckle and I hesitated with my answer: “I don’t know if I want to know what it is like to die. I would have to be dead right?”
That wasn’t an honest answer though. I do want to know what it is like and so did both my partners in the conversation. I guess most of us do want to know. It is just that we will never get the answer and the more life advances it seems normal that these questions come up more often. In the four years that I have been volunteering in Abbeyfield, I have seen residents come and go. The “go” is part of life in a senior’s home. Every Tuesday I ask one of the residents how she is doing and her answer always is: “I am still here.” and sometimes she adds: “I wonder why?” Others respond to my “See you next week.” with “Yes, if I am still here”, hinting at that final destination. The destination is one of the mysteries of life, in fact it is the final mystery. It makes us curious and sometimes a little fearful at the same time. But the older we get, the more important the mystery becomes in our lives and the more usual it is for death to become part of a breakfast conversation.
I see my Abbeyfield friends enjoy their start in the day with a warm meal. I listen to what their past week was like and I tell them about my weekends. Together we live and share these moments and yes why not ask the questions about the mystery? The ones I sometimes ask myself when life feels extremely good, like yesterday. We all think about death once in while, most of us just don’t make it a habit, why would we? It is different when you’re older like my breakfast friends. For some of them death is a reality and simply part of life. While enjoying the things in life they participate in, they simply put the question on the breakfast table and wrap their thoughts around it, before they get dressed to go floor curling or visit with a friend.
I must say this week’s conversation was refreshing and I intensely enjoyed my beautiful day yesterday. I hope I have many more beautiful days and intriguing conversations left in my life. I am still curious how long it will be, but like I said; I am glad I don’t know. Those great moments in life teach me to do my best to live each day as if it were my last one, so when that day comes I at least had the best of what life has to offer and truly there is so much to choose from. Maybe we’ll have another gorgeous autumn day tomorrow and people will have smiles on their faces. I am looking forward to my next Tuesday morning; who knows what kind of questions might come up that will turn into another learning experience?
If you would like to know more about Ty Watson House and the services offered by the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, please call us at 250-723-4478