What’s Left Of A Life When It’s Over?

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” – French Proverb

I’m been thinking a lot about life and death this past week.  As my grandmother used to say, “New ones are born and old ones die.”  Sometimes the ones who die are not ‘old’ ones though.  Sometimes they are too young and we are not ready for them to go.  I bet God gets a lot of questions on that subject.

My brother, Jeff, was 41 almost 42, when he died.  Today would have been his 50th birthday.  He never got the chance to reach this “youth of old age” milestone birthday where we stand back to evaluate our lives and see what we have and haven’t done…and what we still need to do.


He did love birthdays though…his, mine and everyone else’s…and he loved celebrating them.  Every year on my birthday I would wait for it…the (land line) phone would ring and after I said “hello” I would hear, “You are getting so damn old!”  And then he would laugh that great belly laugh of his that always made me laugh too.

One year in my birthday card, he made a list of old things to compare me to…fossils, mummies, the pyramids, Java man…  Yes, he was THAT little brother!

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy for the almost 319,000,000 Americans right now is 78 years…80 years for women and 75 years for men.  This number is projected to get higher for both sexes by the year 2015 and even higher by 2020.

During the early part of the 20th century, the average life expectancy for men and women was 50 years.  Throughout that century, improvements in nutrition, medicine and our quality of life extended life expectancies far beyond the age of 50.  For modern Americans, turning 50 is a time for the second half of our lives to begin so we can enjoy grandchildren and do all the things we didn’t get to do earlier in life.

Two days ago, Jeff became a grandfather.  We don’t know exactly what happens to our spirits, our essence, when we leave this earth.  But knowing my brother, he is somewhere up in heaven high fiving God and passing out cigars in celebration of the birth of his new granddaughter, Audrey Anna Smith.

Audrey Anna Smith

Which leads me back to where I started…what’s left of a life when it’s over?

Since we are bonded through love with people, and if love truly is eternal, the love we share with others will not cease to exist with death.  What’s left of a life when it’s over, are the people we’ve loved and the memories we’ve made on this earth.

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The enduring gifts of our loved ones are the treasured memories of shared moments, the work they did in this world and its impact on others, the love they gave us, and the lessons we learned from them and their life…as well as from their passing.

We move forward and learn to live again by finding meaning in our loss and by finding meaning in the lives of our loved ones.  And every so often, we glimpse them again in the blue eyes of a daughter or the laughter of a son…or in the kindness of others who also knew and loved them.

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 My niece, Jessica and her daughter, Audrey

*Author’s note:  I am now a great-aunt!


7 thoughts on “What’s Left Of A Life When It’s Over?”

  1. Beautiful ! So enjoy your writings 🙂
    Hits home each time . Thank you for sharing <3

  2. Just what I needed to read this morning!

    Audey is beautiful! And the circle of life goes on.

  3. Congratulations on your new great niece! Great insight on losing a loved one. The ioy they bring to our lives far exceeds the pain of losing them.

  4. What a waste of words, unless you have been there you are only dreaming. Statistics mean nothing or even less. The hardest part of my elder years is using my mental ability. 75 and at least 6 health procedures to reduce physical distress and pain. Led a full life, never 9-5 or office. Self employed or contract worker. Means always planning next move. Now I have reached a void. Diagnosed early as different, a productive functioning Asperger’s. If that description does exist. I have done it all that I ever imagined, never as dreamed the outcome. Still the good and bad, few regrets, but it’s past, over. I am still functioning mentally . Yet with changes in culture past endeavors leave no room left for a future other than thought.

    1. Thank you for reading and I appreciate your comment. Aging comes with many challenges and it’s up to each of us to find new ways to learn and do and sometimes, cope. I’m sorry for your physical challenges and I hope you have people in your life who are helping you each day. I work for a retirement community and in my job, I help people deal with the physical and mental challenges they are facing. We are never too old to learn from other people and to make a connection with others. I wish you well.

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