Why does the loneliness of old age seem somehow different, sadder and more painful?
After 7 years in the same mews house in London, we are moving to a much larger family home a few miles away. It’s a big Victorian row house, built in the mid to late 1800’s. It was last refurbished and redecorated about 40 years ago, so while the outside is pretty, the inside is very run down. But my wife is prepared for a remodelling challenge and already we are talking with architects and contractors about designs and building permits. So, all in all an exciting new adventure for the three of us.
However, what prompted me to write this blog is the experience of what has happened to the previous occupant, who lived in the house for several decades, and was a well-regarded restorer of paintings, as well as a pianist who loved classical music. The house was put on the market recently since the man, now very elderly, is confined to a nursing home and it’s doubtful if he will ever leave as he is in poor health. I doubt if he even knows the house is being sold since everything is being handled by an attorney and his trust. The bright spot is that the money from the sale of the house is being donated to a charity. That’s very inspiring.
What’s not so inspiring is how the contents of the man’s home, and all his memories and life’s treasures are being dealt with. I don’t know anything about his family so I won’t speculate, but when I first walked into the house I was struck by the poor condition of the rooms, the book cases, the piles of family pictures on the floor, his studio long abandoned, old photos and paintings stacked up, sheets of classical music spilling out of dusty cardboard boxes. What beautiful music must have sprung from these works of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart at one point in the family room. An old, very out of tune piano in one corner.
One half of me says “that’s just stuff and there are much more important things in life than our stuff.” True (then why do we accumulate so much stuff?). Yet another part of me, seems like the bigger part, feels sad to see the accumulated memories of a man’s long life just scattered about, collecting dust, waiting to be picked over like a carcass by relatives and others. I hope the man has not been discarded and forgotten, because the memorabilia and artefacts of his life certainly have.
As I probe the reason for my feelings of sadness and look around the partially empty rooms, I realise that I am sad for him that his life is ending in a shambles of discarded treasures. But I am also sad because this could also be my life in a few years time. I doubt if he consciously wanted this ending, but then no one ever gets married wanting a divorce, either, but it happens to a great percentage of people anyway. So I think, what choices did this man make along his journey that this was the way it ended for him?
And more importantly for me, what choices am I making right now, and in the future, to end in a way that others treat my life’s treasures with respect? Am I making the right choices? My tutor used to say, “If it feels good tomorrow, do it today!” I need to think even more carefully about my life choices, time is getting shorter and shorter.
Then I have another thought. “Maybe it’s not about the stuff we leave behind. Maybe it’s really about the good deeds we leave behind?”
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress