I’m going to die. I would prefer to wait a while; however, the coronavirus pandemic has caused me to reconsider my plans. I was working on a plan to live forever but hadn’t quite figured out the details. All things considered, I’m giving up on that. My new plan is to live as long and I can.
I am 72. That qualifies me for the senior discount at a number of places. I never really considered myself as “old” until I read about hospitals pondering the ethics of withholding care from older patients, or patients who are unlikely to survive, to give younger, healthier patients a chance to live. As I watched this theoretical conversation turn into reality due to shortages of ventilators, beds, masks, and other protective gear, I suddenly pondered that “dying sooner instead of later” thing. I suspect I am not alone in that regard.
The prospect of being “collateral damage” in the world’s war against the coronavirus is not appealing. It speeds up my plan to prepare for the end of life. Suddenly my legacy becomes a very current issue. I had hoped to put it off for a while.
Is my will up to date? Is my advanced health care directive someplace where my family can find it? Should I finally write that letter that details who should get my personal stuff? I have pondered my funeral for a long time, and want to make sure “You can’t always get what you want” by the Rolling Stones is part of any memorial. Maybe I should write that down somewhere.
As I write this column, I look at the “I love me” artifacts on my wall. Those college degrees, service plaques, medals, awards and participation trophies I have hung onto for all of these years will probably get thrown out when I’m gone. Maybe I should save my family the trouble and clear the walls now.
I have four boxes of pictures dating back to 1962 sitting in the corner of my office. They start with what are probably now historic artifacts from my childhood in Iowa, document travel on three continents, most of the states and more countries than I can remember, and record my civilian years in Virginia. I had always planned to digitize them for posterity. If I “do nothing,” I suspect they will unceremoniously end up in the dumpster with my “I love me” artifacts.
I suspect I am not the only senior pondering these thoughts. My peers, some of them more “senior” than me, are probably not particularly thrilled about being considered expendable for the greater good.
Veterans understand the math. The military uses triage to sort out who is worth scarce resources and who is not. We “get” the model of devoting resources to those who still have utility while not wasting time on those who are deemed not worth the effort. I suspect seniors recognize that in a world of limited resources, such decisions need to be made.
On behalf of older patients such as myself, patients with other serious medical conditions, or anyone else who ends up on the margins of who lives or dies, I ask the rest of you to help us live a little longer.
Gov. Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 53 to provide mandatory evidence-based instructions regarding how to prevent the speed of the coronavirus. Please follow them. We know we are going to die. We aren’t in any hurry. We would really appreciate your help delaying the inevitable as long as possible.
It would be ironic if this were my last column.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.