With age comes loss — loss of beauty, health, vitality, agility, hopes and dreams. That’s why growing old is scary. The longer you stay here on earth, the more you have to lose.
But the scariest thing about growing old doesn’t involve you. It involves the people you love the most. You become so fixated on your own graying hair strands, body aches, and regrets that you fail notice how everyone around you ages, too… until one day, when everything seems to fall down at the same time. Your favorite teacher back in high school has a tumor in his brain. Your childhood friend’s sweet grandma complains of spasms in her arms. Your cool uncle suffers from a stroke. Your own grandfather no longer recognizes you.
Then, your dear father drastically loses weight. You ask him to eat more, and you even cook his favorite dishes. He wolfs down the food, but to your eyes, he doesn’t gain any weight, and it even seems like he keeps on getting thinner. You’re worried sick to your stomach but he just grins at you, saying “I look so handsome with the fat off, don’t you think? Honey, you’re such a worrywart. But I feel okay. Don’t worry about me.”
Your beloved mother accidentally lets it slip that she gets frequent bouts of dizziness. They go as quickly as they come, she assures you — but the point is, they still come. You want to whisk her to the hospital, make her get a CT scan or an MRI exam, but she refuses, saying “I’ll go to the doctor as soon as I can if it’ll make you happy, sweetheart. But I’m fine, this is nothing. Don’t worry about me.”
You don’t know exactly when it happened, but now, you’ve become the parent and they, your stubborn children. You finally understand how they felt so many years ago, when you were a small child who wouldn’t do as they say. But even as a naughty kid back then, you saw your parents as your superheroes. They were strong and big. They would protect you from all harm. They were indestructible. They had no kryptonite.
Today, they are still your superheroes, but you can now see that their brave hearts and souls are housed in very mortal and vulnerable bodies that will eventually and inevitably fail with the passage of time. You start to wonder if, maybe, the hourglass is running out of sand, and you vow to do everything in your power to add all the grains that you can, even if you have to painstakingly put them in one by one. Whatever it takes.
It isn’t just you who is thinking this. When you go out for coffee with your coworker, he mentions how his mom has to follow a strict low-sugar diet to control her diabetes. Your gym buddy sends you a text message about how he can’t run with you today because his aunt was rushed to the ER due to high blood pressure.
Then, later in the evening, your best friend calls you, letting you know that her dad has passed away because of heart failure a few minutes ago, and will you have the time to please, please come see her because she is in such unbearable, intolerable pain.
Suddenly, you feel very old. So this is how it feels, you think.
Yet, you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say a little prayer to a god you desperately hope is real. You accept that life will always go its own way and the only thing you can do is to do the best you can. You make peace with the harsh reality that nothing and no one lasts forever as much as you wish for it with every fiber of your being.
You tell your best friend that you’ll be there, because you know that when the time comes, she’ll be there for you, too.
Until then, you enjoy the time you’ve got with the people you love most, while the hourglass is still running.