Letter’s from Renee is a new column and will represent the introspective and profound writing from Renee Levine who is 94 years old. Renee will add her voice to our community from time to time. Recently she commented on a column I wrote about perspective. 

Yes, it is all about perspective.

I have noticed that few people are aware of that important view. When I moved into what is called “a senior living facility”, I was obliged to see my world in terms of age and fragility.  I am surrounded by it and it is self selected.  We all came here for a good reason and will now live here with a new view of our life. New vocabulary: frail, handicapped, in pain, needing assistance, no longer independent, needing help along with creating a new community for oneself and eating with others in a dining room served food which is not prepared by me.

Yes, a new perspective.

I am 94 years old and healthy.  I am married to a man who lives under the same roof but in a separate apartment.  He suffers from dementia and requires a great deal of personal assistance. This new view of ourselves has given me a great deal to think about.

I wrote a piece called The Staircase for Our Stories Today about going down life’s staircase as my great grandson goes up that same staircase of life. As he learns, we un-learn.  We forget: he accumulates. We think seriously about death.  His only interest is forward.

The preoccupation with dying is clearly a new item added to my view of life. Yes. We know we will all die but somehow that is not on the front page of our concerns until, each for her own reasons,  finds herself brought face to face with it. This is when I heard about the death cafes.

Death Cafe as a gathering place to talk about death and dying, is a European discovery.  In other countries death is more intimately connected to life and is easily brought in and out of conversation.  In this country people shy away of talk which concerns not only death but also other topics like religion, politics, money.

I heard about the Death Cafe after coming to The Crossings, my new retirement community and was immediately hooked. I wanted to open such a place here. A place where people could sit around and not be embarrassed or afraid to talk about dying. Your own death or any other death: your dog’s, your friend’s, your parent’s, your life style, your marriage.  No limits.

From that came my starting a cafe, once a month, always on the same day, in the same place, private and secure facilitated by an outside person offering  a safe and quiet time to talk about subjects which concern us all. We talk about death and dying, we talk about loss and grief.  We share stories of relationships that end, work that is no longer relevant, parts of ourselves that  have changed.  Death will come to us all.  Have we given thought to it?  Have we made the plans we need to make?

Get a new perspective. Death is  a part of life. With life comes the knowledge of death. They are as one. For the earth and for those who inhabit it.

Renée Levine