When I think about my mortality and aging, I like to consider the life of trees.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with my mortality lately because Rob and I have been working on our estate planning. I need to write about that. Some of you will not like this full-frontal piece of writing, and you are free to pass this one by. I also swear a fair amount.

When Rob and I hiked in the mountains Sunday at one of my favorite haunts (seen in the image above), I inhaled deeply and the air was so cold it shocked my lungs. I devoured the sight of the trees with their fresh snow dresses and the impossible blue of the sky and the moisture in the snow.  I took my time, stopping to take pictures and to take in this extraordinary tableau.

And most of the walk I was thinking about my mortality. How grateful I am to be alive despite how fucked up our country is right now. How blessed I am despite this pandemic and civil unrest because I have my words, my images, my paint, my extraordinary family. I am loved.

I speak to the trees. I always have. Trees make me feel safe and comforted. Trees make me wonder about mortality, because if you have ever hiked in a deep forest, you will likely step over trees that have been felled by wind or disease. Perhaps years later when you return to the same spot, you’ll discover new life has found the nutrients they need to grow out of that fallen timber. How beautiful.

When I think about my mortality and aging, I like to consider the life of trees.

Sometimes I become frightened about my time ending and forget about the life I am now living.

But then my daughter initiates a FaceTime call and my granddaughter yells, “Hi Tutu!” or my husband texts me to tell me he loves me (though he is only a few hundred feet away) or someone tells me that one of my paintings made them smile or that my words lifted them up or some other amazing thing that happens EVERY day.

Sometimes I think if human beings dug deep they might discover they are more afraid of living than dying. Afraid of pain. As George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton in the spellbinding musical “Dying is easy young man. Living is harder.”

We are afraid of the loss of someone we love. Uncertainty. There is nothing we can do to prevent this.

So, Rob and I were finally pushed to confront this reality, and do our estate planning which includes powers of attorney, letters to those we love and directives about our final days and how we want to be cared for should we suffer dementia. How we want our lives celebrated after we die.

The pandemic made us do it, but frankly, since I turned 60, I’ve wanted to get our papers in order.

This was something I procrastinated about for a few months after we finally contracted with an attorney. Then I sat on the papers she sent until mid-December when something made me get my ass in gear.

I was in tears more than once. Imagining the world going on without me is painful to fathom. I like being alive. Knowing for certain that impermanence is the only thing that is permanent doesn’t mean I can comprehend things not remaining just as they are now.

This post was scheduled to go live this past Wednesday, when I would be full of fentanyl and some type of sedative as I underwent a run of the mill endoscopy. I’ve had digestive issues for some time and they just seem to be getting worse, so it’s a good idea to check it out. There is no reason to believe anything serious is going on. But, you know. Someday, something will be going on. No way around that.

Then, mother nature intervened. I woke up Tuesday with uncomfortable stomach issues and developed a fever Tuesday evening. I rescheduled the procedure and this post.

I was sick for five days.

Why am I writing a post about mortality?

This blog is for women over 50 and death is a fact of life. We all think about the inevitability of our death, but we don’t talk about it. And if we do try to mention it, it becomes the stuff of jokes or we lightly brush over it as if we will live forever or we order more wine. Our culture sucks at talking about death and dying. We prefer pretty subjects. I know I do.

But talking about hard things can allow others to hold space for us. Can calm the chaos in our head and allow us to be present with what is instead of lost in fear for what will be. When we speak of the things that frighten us, they lose some power.

I ‘d like to normalize this fact, not to make us terrified, but to make us fucking wake up and get to the important shit. Stop putting off what you want to say and do. The awareness that our days are numbered should be heady stuff. Knowing that tomorrow is not a guarantee makes life sweeter. Makes us do what needs to be done, say what needs to be said.

This is a good thing. We should be doing this while we are alive, not with a deathbed declaration.

One of the questions I answered with our estate planning is “What would you tell your loved one’s if you only had ten minutes left?” Dang, the tears flew hard and fast. But you know something? I realized that so much of what I wrote, I say often to my daughters, granddaughter and husband.

“I love you. I am proud of you. You will be okay because you carry a part of me. That keeps me alive.”