On Getting Older and “Being Mortal”

After sitting on my to-read-later shelf for a long time, I picked up Being Mortal  by Atul Gawande. Many of my friends had read it. Becky read it in 2018 and really liked it. I knew it would be good, I just didn’t know just how good it would be. Let me just say, it is VERY good!

The book is about aging and medical care and how medical care has not served the aging process well. The book is about an alternative vision for what do with the elderly and, therefore, what we will do for ourselves and what will be done for us.

If you are in the decade of your 60s, read this book.
If you have aging parents, read this book.
If you are interested in thinking about what makes life worthwhile, read this book.

I could not help but think (as a son) about mom as I read through it. Mom was very blessed that she never had to leave her house. Every time we talked to her about moving to a simpler living arrangement she resisted. Mom retained clarity of mind, her general health, her wide and deep social life, her involvement in church and service opportunities, and her independence and autonomy to do so up to the very end.

I cannot help but think (as a pastor) about the many delightful friends at Living Word who are in their older years. I smile when I think of these “saints” (okay, a few still have some “scoundrel” left in them!). I am grateful they have a community of their peers (like Thursday Mornings in the Word and other groups). I am glad to see them integrating widely through every part of life at Living Word. I rejoice as I see each one find ways to serve, love, and enjoy a life of meaning and purpose.

Nor can I help but think (as a 60 year old) that one day this will be my lot and Becky’s lot. It is the way of life and the rhythm of life.

It is one more reason why I love Living Word and what our church can become – a community of inter-generational followers of Jesus doing life together, loving one another, learning from one another, and serving one another. It becomes more precious to me every year.

Here is one snippet from the book (page 128). It reflects the concern that led to the writing of the book, by a surgeon, teacher, and author. He is an insider making the following statement against his own profession when it comes to care of the aging:

The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all. Medicine’s focus is narrow. Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul. Yet – and this is the painful paradox – we have decided that they should be the ones who largely define how we live in our waning days. For more than half a century now, we have treated the trials of sickness, aging and mortality as medical concerns. It’s been an experiment in social engineering, putting our fates in the hands of people valued more for their technical prowess than for their understanding of human needs.

That experiment has failed!

Read the book to find out his proposal and his report on a better way.

Pastor Brian

Brian Rice
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