As a woman in her seventies, and as a person with friends of all ages, I think of aging and death. Aren’t these facts of life? We are born, we live, we die – hoping we do as much with our lives as humanly possible. At least that is how I think of it. On the train the other day, another passenger (a truly delightful older German woman) asked, “What do you believe happens to you after you die?” I didn’t have a simple answer for her, but it did lead us into a fascinating conversation.
What has surprised me though on this trip, as well as when I am out with the bookstore traveling about or having dinner with friends in Montana, is the number of people who seem to think one is born, one lives and lives. They don’t care to think about aging or – heaven forbid – to think about their death.
Aging and death are complicated topics especially in the US where many people don’t have sufficient healthcare, or access to social support services. This isn’t the place to delve into what more can be done on that besides voting and community involvement. I do feel compelled to talk with people about aging and death though because I believe it will happen to us all. And yes, I’m all for being as prepared as possible. For each of us, at least giving it some thought, exploring options if there are options, can be a place to start.
Recently I was in Detroit which is a city that far exceeded my expectations. Like all large cities, it has its problems. But it also has so many talented artists and musicians, beautiful murals covering downtown, numerous new institutions starting up and other ones continuing from the past century. It was indeed a treat to visit Amos Kennedy‘s studio where he births amazing posters speaking truth to power. Signal-Return also has a letterpress focus, and it about to move into larger digs. Signal-Return is a nonprofit offering classes and events to spread the word about printing. The MBAD African Bead Museum was astonishing, and moving. A sculpture space I could have spent hours in. And then there is the Heidelberg Project! All in one city and this doesn’t even begin to describe the range of restaurants, cafes, small shops, and – yes – bookstores. On this trip, I had the opportunity to visit the John K King Bookstore which was certainly enough of a bookstore for one day.
Obviously I need to get back to Detroit. And I hope you give thought to aging and death if you haven’t considered it yet.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
A Reckoning by May Sarton
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite
Poster designed and printed by Amos Kennedy.