In Bioethics we’re reading Atul Gawande’s Mortality, an excellent call to conscience for all of us who know, care for, or anticipate becoming senior citizens. To correct the worst tendencies of a youth-and-consumer-oriented culture to put older people out of sight and out of mind, and to defeat the denialism of those who just don’t like to think about growing old and dying as inevitable stages on life’s way, I’ve challenged us all to think of examples of wise elders who’ve left (or are still leaving) an inspiring legacy, who lived long and constructive lives, and who flourished ’til the end.
First name to come to mind, for me, was Stewart Udall (1920-2010). His “letter to my grandchildren“* is a priceless model of the kind of wisdom only years can bring. He did a moving interview with Bob Edwards not long before his death. Quite a legacy, indeed.
*”Go well, do well, my children! Support all endeavors that promise a better life for the inhabitants of our planet. Cherish sunsets, wild creations, and wild places. Have a love affair with the wonder and beauty of the earth!”
- Always maintain a good sense of humor.
- Never be too good to start at the bottom.
- Exercise every single day, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Don’t spend more money than you make.
- Drink orange juice every day.
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