In the words of the singer Hank Williams, “You’ll never get out of this world alive.”
I know this, but still know that I often fool myself and pretend otherwise, imagining I have “all the time in the world,” imagining dying is what other people do, not me. Good thing I have this vocation called ministry. It helps keep me honest and mindful of the transiency of life – all life, including my own.
While that fundamental truth is sobering, to be sure, it’s far from depressing. It helps me appreciate this life, with all it’s limitations, this moment, with all its ordinary texture, this person, with all their imperfections.
Apparently, the temptation to avoid the harsh reality of being mortal is not mine alone which, perhaps, is also why Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal is a New York Times bestseller. Clear, straightforward and hopeful, Being Mortal addresses how we care for the aging and how we talk about what matters in the end. Whether you have these conversations with your parents or children, your partner or doctor, they’re critical conversations that we first need to have with ourselves. In an engaging, highly readable style, Dr. Gawande helps us take the first step and approach these conversations with the right questions in hand (see pages 179 and following).
Dr. Gawande not only looks critically at the medical system that often sees its job as keeping you alive at all cost, he also shares personally and deeply his experience as a physician and as a son who lost his father to cancer.
In the end, what matters is how you choose to live. His words sound almost Zen-like: “you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer” [and appreciate this day, this time, for what it is]. This is a book that accompanies well Gary’s current sermon series on endings and beginnings.
Being Mortal: we all are. Here’s a thoughtful, practical book that helps us sing with Hank, “I’ll never get out of this world alive.”