More on growing old: Plucked before one’s time

I think in metaphors. Abstractions exercise the brain but, like one working out on a treadmill, take me nowhere.

Yesterday I was having lunch with Imaging, my darling. We were in the sun on the back porch overlooking the pond and the Tetons. After we’d eaten she began picking off the older blooms of the geraniums and tossing them aside. Some had some beauty left in them.

“Why do you pick those that are still pretty and with just a petal or two beginning to turn?”

“The more blooms you pick off, the more will come to take their places,” she answered.

We have to make room for the coming generations. But we do not want to give up our space, not yet. No. Not yet. And many of the older generation have power and money. They can purchase a few more years. Geriatrics is big business, but some say Medicare will break the nation.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with Dr. Kevorkian, known to many as Doctor Death. He has admittedly assisted in the suicides of more than a hundred people who were terminally ill, and who suffered unremitting pain that had turned their lives to living hell. He’d just been released from prison and is on parole. He is over eighty, too thin, frail, but funny and full of life and looking for ways to transform his remaining years into something useful. He had decided to run for Congress as an Independent in Michigan, (a felony conviction does not disqualify one for office in that state.) He was eager to take on some of the unpopular but critical issues in that state, including prison reform. I offered him money for his campaign. He is poor, yet he turned it down. He wasn’t taking any political contributions. I’m glad he wasn’t picked off the social geranium plant before his time.

Indeed, I stare at my own wilting petals, but remember one of my commenters here, Kurt, who scorned me for my concerns. He told of a federal judge, Wesley Brown, who is 101 years old, who never misses a point, and who walks up four flights of stairs every morning to his courtroom. Thankfully he was not plucked from the judicial plant before his time.

21 responses to “More on growing old: Plucked before one’s time

  1. Comparing old age to being pluked like a petal to make room for the new is depressing. Terminally ill old people seeking death in relief of pain is sad. In some Asian countries, old people are revered and their knowledge gained from the pain of experience is appreciated. Sometimes, Americans do not fully appreciate older or more mature individuals. Yet, some older persons have tender hearts and souls and are more empathetic toward fellow human beings. The stories told by an older person based upon practical experience ring true because they are based on actual experience and not a manufactured idea.
    Story telling is truly a difficult art form. I am sure there are some good stories that celebrate old age and a mature point of view. There are some sad stories, too. In some respects, many ideas and philosophies are based upon the past experiences of other people and we live our lives based on their gifts to us. No one wants to re-invent everything that already exists. Use what is already there — use the experiences, tools, ideas — already invented to make life better.
    Comparing yourself to a 101 year old man is over-aging yourself too much. Having a youthful, positive outlook on life can help keep one young at heart. Seek the positive. Look for beauty. Go toward the light.
    Thank you Gerry — for your gifts to all of us.
    Glen R. Graham, Attorney at Law, Tulsa, Oklahoma

  2. There is really no getting around it, aging is a chronic, degenerative disease with a dire prognosis. At best,we simply run out of time. Quite apart from losing one’s bloom,with more time we could play the score better, like managing a ball game. I just lost a case and it pains me beyond description. I need to make up for having failed. Maybe, if I succeed in the next ten or twenty or one hundred cases, I will atone for my shortcomings. All it will take to do that is time; a lot more time, as long as I don’t fail again. Being a geranium is looking better every day.

  3. Bob Casale: The pain is too much. Yet it is pain that feeds growth. I am sorry for your pain, but it would be intolerable if you lost without it.


  4. Oh, no, I think I shall have the impudence to disagree with Gerry Spence. I, for one, do not want those older than me to make space for more. I was blessed to have my father live with my family for the last 12 years of his life. Funny, I always thought he liked my sister best.

  5. Oh, no, I think I shall have the impudence to disagree with Gerry Spence. I, for one, do not want those older than me to make space for more. We have too much to learn. I was blessed to have my father live with my family for the last 12 years of his life. Funny, I always thought he liked my sister best, but I was a late surprise, and I didn’t smoke like she does.
    My father was not a burden. He always had something to tell us that we could learn from. He was relaxed after working hard all his life. But he didn’t want to be consigned to a rocking chair. He got a knee replacement when he was in his eighties. He had cataracts in both eyes corrected in his late eighties. When his reaction time got too slow when he was 92 and they took away his driver’s license, he got an electric scooter to maintain his independence. He rode into town with an orange flag on back to get his toenails cut at the podiatrist. He did his own shopping in the grocery store. I did get called twice when he went off the road or sidewalk and tipped over on some tree roots and he couldn’t get out from under the scooter. He broke no bones, but scared me. I asked him why he was going off-road in the scooter. “I was taking a short-cut,” said he.
    When he was 94, an old friend’s daughter was remarrying in California after her husband died. He told me he would really like to go to the wedding. So I said, why not. We got the plane tickets, a first floor hotel room, rolled the scooter up to the plane door, and flew off. We rested a day before the wedding and I introduced him to Korean barbecue. He loved it. I had to buy a plastic stool because the van we rented was too high. He rolled into the wedding, gorgeous in his tux. We had a great time at the reception. We went to the home of the parents after and shared great stories of when I and the bride were little girls together. We flew home, none the worse for wear.
    Five months later, after serving him lamb stew for dinner, and tucking him in, and him telling us that he didn’t know what he would do without us, he died in his sleep. It was what he wanted. He was tired at 94 and 1/2 and his wife and many friends were gone. I firmly believe he stayed alive that long to make sure that my husband and I did not ruin his wonderful granddaughters with our suspect parenting. When he decided they had grown to wonderful young women, he could rest. He stands with me during every closing argument that I make, giving me courage. But I miss him, and wish I had learned more from him.

  6. Your observations about Judge Brown are accurate. I’m the reporter who covers courts for the Wichita Eagle and, and I wrote my first profile on the judge when he was 93. I have learned much in talking with him over the past eight years.

    Last year, I interviewed him on the occasion of his 100th birthday, and it consisted of one question: “What have you learned in the past 10 years?” I asked this knowing many people don’t make it to 90, and I was interested in what they were missing.

    Brown’s answer: The Internet.

    “I remember when you used to have to crank the telephone,” he said. He said that legal issues now about privacy reminded him of when he would pick up the phone and talk on a party line. “Everyone could hear your calls.”

    It struck me that we always learn, but as we get older that learning, based on experience, brings wisdom.

    Although I’m only 49, but I no longer dread getting older, having known Judge Brown.

    I’m starting to look forward to it.

  7. I do not want to be plucked, taken or carried away (by angels or otherwise). I am afraid of the end. I like it here. I will not go quietly or gracefully. I will not allow my body to be taken from me without the fight of fights, no matter what its condition.
    Unfair? Ok, I am, I do not want to make room for anyone else. Happy to move over if needed but not to exit.
    Now why do I feel this need to exist and survive. Maybe I am not yet tired or sick enough to say I have lived a full life.
    I must be a child in my mind. I never thought of the end in my younger years and only think of it now when somebody brings it up.
    But, when I think of it I know I too will have to be “plucked” sometime, lets ALL hope that is a long long time from now and in the mean time a full life of love , fun and laughter . I do however want to be on record that I am not agreeing to be plucked at any time , even in light of the rules of nature and all. I want to be that old giant redwood tree that just lives on and on and on. Through fire, storms and so many others lives and generations. May nature give you that same amount of time as well Mr Spence.
    Signed Del Hardy

  8. Anna,

    Your post was very moving . It made me cry.
    Thank you.

  9. Paw Paw,

    When you speak of dying it makes me sad because I will miss you. But at the same time it brings me joy because in my Culture we believe that when you die where your soul goes depends on how you lived your life. My Grandmother would tell stories of the “Eastern Paradise” in Spanish, La Casa Del Sol, (house of the sun) this was the home where the souls of warriors went.

    She would say that because I was a Marine and had gone to war, that when I died, I would go the the Eastern Paradise for four years, and then return to Earth as a hummingbird or swallow.

    Paw Paw you are and have been a Great Warrior. When your time comes I will be sad and mourn you… But I am sure that after four years you will will return to this Earth and find your way to the ranch just like Judge Rose did and is now there with you.



  10. What I wouldn’t do to have lunch (or just 30 minutes of conversation) with Gerry Spence.

    For less than 20.00 (to purchase one of his audiotapes (which I really got free through a bookstore gift certificate at Christmas one year), I got my big guilty company through a major lawsuit with minimal damage.

    I should have at least told the boss how I did it (like how Gerry deserved the credit).

    Thank you Sir.

    I pray your petal (legacy) is a perennial.

    Sincerely, Cruise

  11. Gerry – I think you are getting softer with each new day. You are still my legal hero! Don’t forget to keep on counting the geraniums…both dead and alive!

  12. Living while dying

    There is a loneliness that numbs.
    Sometimes I recognize that it
    Has taken over my body.

    When I try to get out to my spirit
    There is relief and light,
    But my body is too tired.

    Every day the body and spirit
    valiantly visit each other
    before they fight to sleep,
    and then ants are crawling.

    I am trying to keep them off
    his body. I don’t know if he
    has died because of the ants
    biting him or if they came
    so quickly.
    March 17, 2008 Samantha Berryessa Cowart/Nightmares

  13. Gerry,

    Thank you for blogging and sharing your wisdom, experience and insight with the masses. I became a paralegal 16 years ago to seek justice for those in need, and, after a number of soul sucking years in corporate law, find myself working for a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer who helps the neediest of the population. Through all these years, you have been my constant source of inspiration and have kept alive my belief in our legal system through many periods of doubt.

    May you remain forever young at heart.

  14. What can you do when everything you ever believed is not really true? A question I asked after getting grilled on the stand by my ex-wife’s lawyer and the judge saying that he didn’t care about me and that what I said as a father, did not matter. That was ten years ago.

    Last winter, as I studied many subjects, I noticed my views were different. So different that I again asked myself that same question. For instance, I started moving to jazz when playing guitar and my politics were more blurred. I enjoyed skiing my beloved Colorado Rocky Mountians in a different way. And though my business is more successful than ever, I manage things more matter-of-factly.

    I told my kids, now in jr. high, about these things and they just said, “OK”. I am growing older, too, and I hope that I have had the same wisdom as my mother. When I was growing up, all the kids in the neighborhood hung out at my house. Our grass was tattered around the edges because of the foot traffic. The house next door was perfect and, one time, the lady asked my mother how my family could stand to have our grass in such a shabby appearance. My mother told her that she and my father were raising kids, not grass. So true.

    What can you do when everything you ever believed is not really true?

  15. Well, John, what we believe in is what WE believe in. Beliefs are the means by which we can escape the truth.

    But even truth is in the eyes of the beholder. What’s worse, we are on this ever-changing course down life’s river. What was true a minute ago is now past and untrue.

    So truth is as likely to be untrue as not.

    The best truth is to discover the self. It all begins there.


  16. Gerry, Thanks for your comments. One more thought: When discovering one’s self, don’t we think that is truth. Then maybe years latter, we discover the self is different and therefore the truth is changed.

    My last post is a bit disjointed, but I was trying to say that even though certain events have not changed, my understanding of them has. This is further self-discovery, I guess.

  17. Gerry
    Can you talk more about your comment “Beliefs are the means by which we can escape the truth.” ?
    Thank You.

  18. To John Davis:

    You ask me to talk more about my comment: “Beliefs are the means by which we can escape the truth.”

    John, what more need be said?

    All religions are based on belief systems that have little respect for fact.

    In this political climate, people continue to ignore the facts because their beliefs are in conflict with the facts.

    Why do we turn to beliefs rather than fact? Beliefs are ususally not so challenging, so frightening. Besides, it is easier to believe (which is someone else’s thinking for us) rather than to think for ourselves. Thinking for ourselves can be a very frightening experience.

    This is Halloween. Do we dare take the masks off of our beliefs and see what is under them?


  19. Thanks Gerry. Great examples. It’s scarier with masks off instead of masks on.


  20. There is no such thing as an old human being.

  21. Human beings age, all do –from the point of conception, until the ticker stops ticking.
    Humans on this board, who posted up their thoughts, are of assorted ages, as they send their human wisdom, stories, etc, reflecting off of what Gerry noted on how power, and politics collided in Chicago( something that will age Gov Blogo, like no other experience). If one examines the abortion debate, the central question is when do we become human beings, or a being worthy of legal protection(in the American society).
    That is on the front end of aging—POINT A.
    Now, we see Tom Mott, removing personhood at some point in the age spectrum ?
    He did not set that point on “old” into some graven stone period.
    I realize the fountain of youth is that yearning of the ages, take this, pop that, etc. Fact is, nobody excapes this earth—alive. Nobody.

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