I am at the age where all my teen idols are dying. Most of them are at least a decade older than me which puts them in their 70's. Some deaths are from heavy drug use, smoking and disease. Some are because that's what happens when you hit the senior years. You die.
Coming to terms with the death is something we all think about especially when we become a senior. How will I die? When is it going to happen? What if I keel over while sitting on the toilet like Elvis did? And the big question. What comes after that?
Erik Erikson, was a famous psychologist during the 20th century. He theorized that we go through eight stages of conflict, from infancy to late adulthood, each needing to be resolved before we can move on to the next. The final stage in adulthood is reconciling with the past and finding satisfaction in what has been accomplished.
Erikson’s wife, Joan, played a big part in the development of his theory. (Behind every man is a good woman with better ideas.). After he died she wrote of a ninth and final stage. She was 93 and having lived longer than her husband, this theory was most likely what she was experiencing. This stage kicks in during the eighties and nineties and is about coming to terms with the loss of physical health, family and friends, feelings of isolation and that death is an inevitable reality. She'd have been a fun addition to a party.
Then there is this guy. His name is Lars Tornstam and he coined the term gerotranscendence. The idea behind his theory is that when we become very old there is an alteration of consciousness, a re-evaluation of priorities, a new understanding of a cosmic communion and a change in perception of life and death. Whoa Nellie! In other words, wisdom. I can’t wait.
I have noticed that people with a secure belief system, whether secular or religious, experience greater satisfaction in their final years than those that don't. They have eliminated the biggest mystery of their life by knowing what will happen when they die. And, right or wrong, it doesn't really matter. We'll all find out, eventually.
This quote by Stephen Hawking sums it all up quite well:
Hawking said of the meaning of life:
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
He also said:
"I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."
Stephen Hawking was a very smart man.