Paul Kusuda’s column
If we feel old, when should we die?
Paul H. Kusuda
the day after tomorrow or even later. Those who are young (perhaps naïve or feeling invincible) often have a sense of
pseudo-immortality; why worry about what might happen? Nothing bad will happen; I won’t get injured; I’ll live forever! At the
same time; I ain’t gonna get old like the old folks that hang around forever and are such a drag!
How we think about the unknown future must necessarily be individualized, it cannot be determined by others. In my case,
each of my parents died at age 72 although my mother died a decade after my father. So, my older brother decided his time
of death would be about 72; he lived a few years beyond that and told me a couple of times that those were bonus years.
While living alone in the house he inherited in Los Angeles, he died of a massive stroke with a telephone in his hand. He
was probably reserving a room in Las Vegas for his quarterly trip to try, usually unsuccessfully, to beat the odds at a craps
table. I gave myself a death deadline of 72 plus-or-minus 5 (because of my academic background in social work research
and statistics). I was dead wrong! Now, I’m 92 and continue to do whatever I can. Soon, I suppose I’ll begin the process of
disengagement, as planned at about age 70. Oh, well, that time will come, but I don’t plan to worry about that now.
Continuing to be active in community activities and engaging in volunteer work keep both my wife and me occupied to such
an extent that we not only maintain separate calendars, we also maintain a large table-sized calendar that contains both of
our schedules. In that way we know where the other will be. Thus, we used to schedule joint volunteer activities such as
Meals on Wheels, Friends of Pinney Public Library Book Sales, CROP Walks, Mentors at a middle school, food preparer and
server at our church for homeless parents and children, and straightening-up church pew containers (bibles, hymnals,
offering envelopes, etc.). We’ve stopped some of those joint involvements; however, I recently joined, for a very short while,
my wife who has for many years been a volunteer in the Schools of Hope program at our local elementary school. My wife’s
volunteer activity has been more on a one-to-one basis (which she enjoys) while mine is more related to group or
committee involvement, letter-writing, and contacting elected representatives of the public. At any rate, we’ve set no death
deadline though recognizing its inevitability.
By Paul H. Kusuda
An article by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, “WHY I HOPE TO DIE AT 75, An argument that society and
families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly” appeared in
the September 2014 issue of Atlantic. The author posits: “…death is a loss. It deprives us
of…all the things we value…But…living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us…a state
that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and
ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to
us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and
engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic. By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a
The author is sincere, and he truly believes that being older than his stop-point of 75 has too
much accompanying baggage. Some may agree with his point of view; not I. I’ve aged beyond
that point in time. It appears to me that being younger is being younger, while aging for many
may appear to be far into the future. Some may fear what they don’t know will definitely happen
Planning for the future, including
completing and filing a Living Will
and Power of Attorney for Health,
etc., may appear pessimistic or
make you think “Why now?” but
some events occur unexpectedly.
That’s what planning for the future
is all about. Age is not a factor;
an unanticipated disaster can
occur at any time, maybe today,
maybe tomorrow. Whether one
believes in predestination, karma,
God’s Will, or whatever, planning
for possible future contingencies
is a must.