Some people are blessed with good genes, good fortune, and good health, and go on to old age amazing everyone with their vitality. Rachel Veitch is not only a remarkable 89-year-old but she drives a 1954 Mercury Comet Caliente which she bought new and has driven over a half-million miles. Both are still going strong.  This video clip shows how vibrant 89 can be!

On the other hand, I have just read a description by Father Richard John Neuhaus of his bout with cancer, subsequent surgery, recuperation, and further surgery,  in a First Things article which he titled Born Toward Dying.  It is quite a long piece but because Father was such an articulate man it really hits home with the details of his illness, his medical experiences, his suffering, his thoughts, and even his vision.

At one point he writes:

There was absolutely nothing I could do or wanted to do, except to lie there and let them do whatever they do in such a place. Indifferent to time, I neither knew nor cared whether it was night or day. I recall counting sixteen different tubes and other things plugged into my body before I stopped counting.

Father Neuhaus was dealt quite a different hand than Rachel Veitch and died at the age of only 72. Born Toward Dying is not fun reading but it is something you will not soon forget.   When I subscribed to First Things I always turned first to Father Neuhaus’ comments.  His wisdom, insights, and even holiness were apparent.  He was much loved and is much missed since his death a year ago.

We do not get to choose what our old age will be like.


The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord! —  Job 1:21

Ours not to reason why; ours but to do and die. — Alfred Lord Tennyson