The more of life we are blessed to live the greater becomes our reluctance to leave it. This resistance probably grows from a mixture of fear of the “final Judgement”, where we might be found to have fallen short of the standard required for “salvation”, excitement for the never ending series of challenges thrown at us screaming for solution and love of those who support us and who we support through life on this mortal coil.

As we grow, our attitude to life changes. As children, and through our youth, life seems never ending for most of us and, for those unfortunates who learn of their mortality early, the desire for life and their attitude to it seems strangely mature and fatalistic.

Eventually, age seems to enforce a slow-down of our physical prowess and we start to look for other avenues to continue the excitement without the need to pause and catch our breath every 5 minutes. A very good friend of mine who died in 2017 aged 83, spent three days in December 2016 sleeping on the tracks of a leopard in Limpopo province. On day 3 of his wait, he woke his wife (sleeping next to him in a pup tent) and there, outside, stood the leopard in all its pride and beauty. When he told me the story some 6 months later, his eyes were gleaming and he was overjoyed with the excitement of the moment and the beauty of his quarry.  He died 9 months after telling me the story, still spending his life hunting, shooting, fishing and loving what he had been given. 

After loving life, the only missing ingredient is the presence of that special one with whom you can share it. It is seldom decreed that both partners on the journey through life leave it at the same time. For the one left behind, loneliness is an acute problem and, if they are blessed with faith, then religion is often the default choice of support system they make. If they are fortunate, and many are, then their adventure continues, even if it is somewhat less colourful. 

Without faith, these people need support from their community. Mutual interest, self-respect and company support are an essential part of life for the elderly, without which they shrivel up and fade away. Another friend lived with family until it became inconvenient to the younger party. Then a place in a frail home was found and, within six months, my friend had literally shrunk to nothing and surrendered her life. It was so sad to witness.

This does not mean that life stops without faith. My father always gave his religion as “Bush Baptist”.  He lived a full and productive life until he reached 81 and then he settled into quiet retirement and continued to act as the Chairman of operations until he died at 89. In his will he made the following statement: “I wish my body to be cremated and ashes to be distributed with (my Mothers). I want no service of any nature to be conducted and ask my family to celebrate my life with a good dinner”. This we did and remember both him and my Mom with love and joy for their contribution to our lives. The only problem came when we realised that the Old Man had distributed Moms ashes alone and had told nobody where they were! There followed a deal of thumb-sucking. Eventually an agreed venue was identified and there we spread his ashes.  

Faith in a Creator and future helps those who have it to reconcile their past with their future. To date, nobody has proven that there is no future, so we live in hope, that most powerful of emotions. Take strength from the past and live the rest of life as you wish you had lived the first stretch! Most of all, have as much fun as possible.