As I was leaving the nursing home a few years back, I shook hands with an old man who pulled me toward him and pleaded, “Please, please, take me to Rollag!” Since it was Labor Day weekend, and the Steam Thresher’s Reunion was in full swing, I was tempted to load him up and go.
But the old man’s son intervened, winked at me as if the old guy was a little daft, and scolded, “No, Dad, you know your heart can’t take a trip like that,” and dragged the old man back to his room.
About six weeks later, I ran across the old man’s obituary. He died quietly between the stainless steel restraining bars of the bed. Of a heart attack. With his son nowhere near.
How much better for the old man if he would have been allowed the chance to drop dead next to a steamer at Rollag, Minn., six weeks earlier!
People who are protective of the old and say “they can’t take the trip,” aren’t doing the elderly any favors. What they fear is a “scene.” They don’t want to have to be around when somebody dies. They would rather have the death happen in a sterile room in a nursing home with professional medical personnel in attendance, preferably when they are out of town.
What is ignored in all of this is the desire of most older people to die with their boots on, or as Winston Churchill would put it, “in harness.” What is life worth if to preserve it you give up all that you love to do?
Most would push forward with farming, golfing, walking, gardening, cooking and life in general, despite the risks.
It is the younger generations who wish to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. They baby their elders out of what they see to be concern, but which may actually be a selfish desire to avoid either the trauma of death, or worse yet, the unpleasantness of being there when it happens.
I’ll bet many older folks would appreciate it if we younger ones swallowed hard and let them wind things up however they wish, even if it might mean risking a scene at Rollag.
Eric’s new book, “A Treasury of Old Souls,” is available here.