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Facing My Inevitable Death as I Grow Older

August 10, 2017 | by Emuna Braverman

This article is invigorating, not depressing!

I feel like a walking cliché. I am approaching a big birthday (actually it's still three months away but who's counting?) and I am feeling completely overwhelmed. I don't recall ever experiencing anything like this, although an astute reader may surprise me and point out that it wrote the same things ten year ago! Maybe I did. I'm too old to remember!

But it's definitely gotten more intense. All the platitudes, some wise and some foolish, about the aging process are playing on a tape that keeps repeating in my mind.

But it's not all stereotypes and silliness. There is a reality to getting older.

It's not just the fact that things don't seem to work the way they used to and that my husband keeps asking if I came with a warranty (!), it's the underlying imminence of death (please God, not til 120!) that shapes my daily emotions and actions.

When the Almighty finished creating the sixth day, the Torah says “It was very good.” Not just good like the rest of the days, but very good. What made it so good?

One answer our sages give is the creation of death. That certainly wouldn't be our first instinctive reaction. Why is death very good?

Because, paradoxically, it makes us real with life. It reminds us that we can't keep procrastinating; if we want to accomplish something we better do it now. Although no one knows how much time we actually have, as we get older, it definitely gets shorter!

And so with the month of Elul approaching and that big birthday looming, I find myself confronting a certain now-or-never philosophy, a carpe diem as it were.

There are different ways to do this. I can decide to visit every country not yet travelled to, dine in every (kosher) restaurant not yet tried; I can try to grab life by the horns and soak up its physical pleasures.

Don't think I'm not tempted. But while I may travel - and I'll certainly eat in a restaurant or two (any recommendations?), that's not really where my focus lies. If I want to be a kind person, now is the time to up my game. If I don't want to be known as a gossip, now is the time to stop. If I want to be a better wife and mother, the moments are becoming more fleeting and the time to act is now.

It's almost Elul, Rosh Hashanah believe it or not is around the corner, and it's almost my birthday. But it's not almost time to change. It's not almost time to work on growing. It's not almost time to break my bad habits. It's not almost time to improve my character. It is time right now.

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