Shelf Life

My friend just turned 76 and had a common cold. She said as she lay in bed she realized she would be perfectly fine if her life ended that very day. Not that she was miserable or had a death wish or even felt that badly with her cold. She simply realized she would be ready from then on when Death came. The late comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that Indian warriors/hunters said, ‘today is a good day to die’ when they were lined up and ready for battle/the hunt.

There is something infinitely comforting about the realization that one is finite and knowing that one’s end is not so far away. No Dylan Thomas here raging against the dying of the light, but I certainly have things to finish, bucket lists, hopes and dreams.

I relished the late James Hillman’s book, “Force of Character” that reframed memory loss, greying, slowness and other aging bugaboos and reiterated Carl Jung’s idea that eccentricity (especially as we age) is a sign of good mental health.

Here is a metaphor that works for me: shelf life. When we round that corner of readiness for death, we glance at a metaphor, our own label of shelf life: “Best When Used By (this date)”. I have a lot to squeeze into my time left. So does my 76-year-old friend.