We lose our keys. Our glasses. The scrap of paper with our son’s new address on it, just before we leave our house to go over there. The word that was the point of the punch line to the long joke we started to tell to five people standing around in the parking lot at the Safeway. We’re old now. It happens to the best of us. Everyone understands. We find the keys and the glasses, and we call our son who gives us the directions again. Our friends laugh with us about the joke anyway. 

More losses come with our age. Our vision. Our hearing. All manner of “good health” things we never used to worry about now are lost in a sea of “issues” we must take care of every day. That’s not all. We lose sleep and, somehow, control of our cars and our golf clubs and our tennis racquets. It’s a losing battle.

We lose people. We lose them to diseases and cancer, and to failure of body parts to function any longer. We lose neighbors and acquaintances, and mailmen, doctors, and Yoga instructors, and people we didn’t really know but who were important to someone we know well. We lose classmates, friends, and cousins—people we were close to. In our minds and hearts, these people were not supposed to die. Like ourselves, they were supposed to live forever. At least, we think, they were supposed to outlive us, so we would not have to consider their absence, the cause and manner of their death, and our sorrow at the lack of their presence in our lives from now on.

We lose our closest friends, our siblings, our spouses, even—perhaps—our children. For some, these losses are not always totally unexpected. The person was ill, or had a life-taking condition with a probable prognosis for when they might pass away. But, for many, all the preparation in the world is of little help when the moment arrives and the loved one leaves. Whether the loss is a peaceful and calm departure or a sudden surprise, those left behind experience a period of grief and sorrow that may inhabit their lives for years. Sometimes this feeling is intense and sharp; it may come and go and then essentially disappear. Sometimes it pervades throughout all the life of the mourner for the rest of their days. Each person’s experience is different; it depends on the characteristics of the person left behind and the nature of the relationship between the two people. 

As we grow older, we encounter a greater number of these personal losses. At times, we feel overwhelmed and it seems we are alone in our grief; no one is left but ourselves. But we are in a unique situation. Our generation is the first to live as long as we do. More of us are still alive at our ages than were in any decade before now. We are not alone.  We have only to look around and recognize the number of folks trucking along with canes and walkers and wheelchairs. So many! So take heart and go meet a new friend, today. Who knows? It may be the start of another lifelong friendship!

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