Sunday, May 6, 2012

Death on Retirement Island


Death is inevitable, and once you wrap your head around that concept, you realize your time on this Earth is precious, and limited.

People say the darndest things.  "I'll never retire" one writes, because they have not funded their retirement.  Or another has a bumper sticker that reads, "I owe, I owe, so off to to work I go!" as if that was funny.

They look at a 72-month loan obligation and think, "Well, I'll just work six more years!" not realizing that fate may have other plans.

Living on retirement island is sobering.  People die - with regularity.   And many of these folks planned on having many more years of life ahead of them.   God had other plans.

It is one thing when a 90-year-old finally kicks the bucket after running up a Medicare bill of nearly a million bucks in intensive care.   With them, it is like, "enough already, what are you hanging on for?"

But others, well, it seems a little premature.   They had plans - they had goals.   And in the skip of a heartbeat, it is all gone - all irrelevant.

A friend of mine, who was widely loved and admired, passed away at age 56, peacefully in her sleep.  She will be missed.  And she was lucky to die peacefully and quietly, rather to than to go through an extended illness or pain and suffering.

But she was only a few years away from a fully-funded government retirement.  And she had elaborate plans to spend her time with her daughter and grandchildren.  And now those plans are gone.  Her daughter may inherit some money, but that is a pale substitute for the real thing.

And I will miss her, as will many.  And that makes me very sad.

But it makes me realize that doing what I am doing is the right thing.  She was four years older than I am.   And working her life away, hoping for a retirement dream that was never to be.  And her scenario happens to many people.

I chose instead to work less and play more.  And I am glad I made that choice.  Some of my co-horts in this business are making Partner in the big firms, or arguing the big cases in court - cases soon to be forgotten in a box of redwells filed away forever, once the bills are paid.   And their children will grow up, knowing their parents as strangers who occupied a house with them - for a few hours a day at best - for a small part of their lives.

And they make it to retirement and realize the spouse they married 30 years earlier is a total stranger - someone they texted and tweeted or saw for a few waking hours a day at most.   And they may wonder, where did their life go?  What was so important at that office that they had to sacrifice their live for?  And why did they need all that money to buy houses and cars and other status items?

And when they finally get a chance in their lives to think and really think hard for a change, instead of running from one errand to another, they may wonder why they did what they did.

I guess that is the part that makes me cry the most - losing a friend is one thing, but to see her go so soon, without realizing her dreams, seems even worse.

It is a life unfinished.  It is a book that you stopped reading (or writing) halfway through.  And it is a bloody shame, is what it is.

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