You walk every single day and you tend to your garden. You do for yourself and keep your mind sharp by doing crossword puzzles in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and by balancing you own checkbook. And these are the things that, in your opinion, helped you to live this long. That's what your granddaughter told me before you went silent.
These last years were hard for you. Not from a health perspective. No, not that at all. You'd been independent until just a few weeks ago. Things were tough just from a life perspective.
Some piece of us hopes to live as long as you, to be a part of that rare and coveted centurion club. I guess no one really thinks about what comes with that membership. I know I hadn't.
"She became lonely," your granddaughter said. "No one was left. No one. She'd outlived them all."
I squinted my eyes and thought about that for a moment. Before I could speak, she spoke again.
"Her kids were all elderly when they passed. I mean, I'm 57 and I'm her grand baby. When my daddy died, people said he had a full life at his funeral. And that's because he did."
"Man." I paused before speaking and then went on. "But she lived longer."
"She lived longer than everyone. Her brothers and sisters. Her kids. And even a few of her grandchildren. Then her friends, too. They're all gone. I felt so bad for her sometimes. She didn't have nobody left, you know? Not that could relate to stuff she saw in her life."
The other "elders" in your senior high rise were the same age as your children. Your children.
And so. Here you are now. After outliving them all, here you are.
And you know? I could see how it was lonely. I could.
I want to live long. But until today, I guess I hadn't thought much about how long.
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?