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The borders of our lives.

Boomers have heard this more than once, others will hear it more later on: The closer people get to death, the more they drop their facade.

There’s no one left to impress, no one left to pretend for, no one to juke. Toward the end it seems we get the green light to be who we are. For better or worse.

Let’s work on ‘the better’ for BoomerPdx.

One of the most honest people I know explained retirement like this: I don’t have to be an a- -hole anymore. Since he retired from the corporate world as a Director, I understood. At least I think I understood. He didn’t have to evaluate and terminate.

I didn’t ask for verification of what he meant in case he flashed back on me.

Turns out end of life time has a few benefits, too. It’s okay to be the person you always were, but hid away. A recent conversation revealed this truth.

“People are at their most vulnerable in hospice. They may have friends and family visit, or may be alone. Either way they change each day.

“No matter the cause of their impending death, they need something they’ve never needed before, or at least didn’t think they needed. Tennessee Williams called it the ‘kindness of strangers.’ Hospice volunteers know the meaning.

“We listen, we feel for them, and we ease their transition. No heroic measures, no last second intervention, just a nice way of letting go. It’s how we all should leave this world.

“Gone are the hostilities, the blame, the guilt. They’re not interested in the old games. Instead of fighting death, they wait, and we wait with them.

“My focus is on veterans at the end of their lives. After all they’ve done, they deserve our gratitude one last time. Maybe their friends have died, their families live thousands of miles away, or they were too ornery to be around for too long, but they change.

“By the time I see them, they’ve accepted the news. The clock runs faster, ticks louder, and it brings a calm they’ve never known for decades. The veterans I’ve been with almost all think back to their service years.

“I asked a psychologist about veterans living in their own past. Why is that so common? He said it’s because their near death experiences in war resemble the feelings they carry so near their coming death. It made sense.

“Instead of blind patriotism others might see in their veteran memories, people who’ve never served but still glad others did, war veterans are back in the foxhole with their buddies. They’ve spent decades living the civilian life of jobs, marriages, kids, cars, houses, and near the end they’re back in the ranks.

“The important part of hospice is comfort. We try to find that place and welcome them home.”

It’s a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
The borders of our lives.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
And the dangled conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is the theater really dead?”
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
You’re a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation.
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.

About David Gillaspie
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