The Meaning of Life by Debra H. GoldsteinOne of the first songs I remember learning as a child was Que Sera Sera – What Will Be Will Be. I always accepted it as the explanation for life. Today, three things made me reflect upon its application to what some may term “the long run.”
I received word a friend died last night. She was ninety-eight. The person who called hastened to note my friend lived a good life. That’s true, but I doubt in retrospect my friend would have fully agreed. She took pride in the education she received from Northwestern, in a time when women often didn’t have an opportunity to receive a college degree; the job she landed out of school; her marriage to the love of her life; her children and her grandchildren; and the volunteer activities that let her use her mind to advance the causes she loved. But, there also was dismay that marriage meant the end of her professional career; volunteer activities filled her time but weren’t considered as important as moves for her husband’s profession nor could they conflict with the ideology of his company; unable to do anything, she watched her oldest daughter fight, win, fight and lose a battle with cancer; and for the past two years, a series of strokes robbed her of her ability to read and then the detailed brain function she cherished.
Perusing Facebook today, I came across an article about scientist David Goodall, who recently celebrated his hundred and fourth birthday by blowing out his candles and expressing his special birthday wish is to die. Believing he has lived long enough, Goodall plans to effectuate his wish in Switzerland, where euthanasia is permitted, in May. Some question why a man of his stature who devoted his life to science started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his and a helper’s travel expenses, but he notes he isn’t happy watching his body deteriorate and would be glad to die with dignity in his native Australia, but the laws don’t permit it. He acknowledges that at his age, even without euthanasia, his time is limited, but he doesn’t want to continue going downhill becoming more dependent on others while allowing nature to take its course.
An article discussing choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing surprisingly made me reflect on this topic, too. The article, written by a writer who I am familiar with, noted that she began her career traditionally published, but that nearing age eighty and with a following of her works, she’s opted for self-publishing because of the timetables involved with dealing with agents, editors, and publishing house schedules. She made me think of the cartoon/joke that periodically goes around about the golden years when she observed she can no longer get around easily, do radio interviews because of her hearing loss, or spend years waiting for her books to become final products.
Perhaps because I am significantly younger, I understand the frustration delays, infirmities, and losses generate, but I can’t help but wonder why? What purpose, perhaps unknown to them or the rest of us, exists for their continued existence? I believe life is cyclic with moments of joy and of sorrow, with good and with bad, but does its meaning change at different points over the long run? Is What Will Be Will Be too simplistic? I don’t know. But as I observe different people’s reactions, I wonder. Do you?