A woman who is one hundred years old is oh, so slowly dying; we all sit at the bedside and feel as though we are holding our breath. She is still breathing. Her family and I are wondering how a person can stay alive day after day, taking in such a tiny portion of anything and only an occasional sip, while her body literally shrivels away. I am also astonished that she continues to recognize me at each visit. She awakens from her dreamy state when I comment, “I didn’t think I would see you again; why do you think you are still here?”
She replies prosaically, “I’m learning what life is all about.”
I ask her, “Would you share some of that wisdom with the rest of us?”
“No, we all have to do that ourselves,” she retorts and slips away into another space.
I want her to wake back up, and tell me the rest of the story. One hundred years of wisdom, and still learning.
What does that mean for the rest of us?
(Postscript: a week later, I saw her face in death, with eyes wide open, in a suggestion of surprise, and a smile.)