Home Plastic Surgery Accepting death may be the secret to living

Accepting death may be the secret to living

Accepting death may be the secret to living


It has been said that the line between youth and age lands at that point where you stop yearning to look older and start hoping to look younger.

The search for youth is an old — and timely — story. It was on this day, March 27, 1513, that Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon — looking for the fountain of youth — first sighted Florida and headed toward what is now St. Augustine.

He was one of many who sought the secret of youth. For centuries the myth of the Holy Grail drew searchers in quest of Christ’s chalice which, the myth promised, would guarantee eternal life.

Today, those with the same desire have an endless bounty of pseudo-miracles to prolong the appearance of youth. We have Botox and lasers and plastic surgery. But even those seem to offer disappointment as the pressure to look younger intensifies. Years ago, when the middle-aged population boom was predicted, we imagined an older majority would mean a celebration of aging. Rather than the demographic bump supporting an age-accepting aesthetic, it instead created even more pressure to not go gently into wrinkles and gray hair.

We know the disdain younger people have for older people. We had it for our elders, too. Remember, we were the ones who said, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” The younger group has retranslated that into, “Don’t be anyone over 30.” Maybe this a way for them, who see us eating up their financial future, to seek another kind of social security. There’s always the easy target: the media. But the media only mirror back to us what we want. We want eternal youth, so advertisers are happy to offer those products.

But the focus on externals ignores the fact that the search for youth is not really about looking younger. What Ponce de Leon and those seeking the Grail wanted was not a cosmetic fix but immortality. They wanted to not die.

Maybe — and we have such a hard time hearing this — true vitality only comes when we grasp the absolute inevitability of death. It’s only when we understand that we’re going to die that we start to ask the crucial questions: What do I want to do with my life? Who do I want to spend my time with? That’s partly what the Great Resignation is about — and it’s an indirect gift of the pandemic. Accepting death may be the secret to living. My brother taught me this.

Years ago, I watched my brother Larry thrashing and kicking his way out of this world. There were so many things he had wanted to do but his body cruelly betrayed his plans. He was furious. He was 42. My sisters followed him out.

So, I know it’s easier to talk about plastic surgery or calorie restriction than to have a conversation about dying, but the fact is that one day death is going to tap on the window and say, “Meet me at the door.” No matter how much we pretend, it’s simply true that the one who dies with the most toys, dies.

This is why, even though it’s sad, I hold onto that vision of my brother dying. It is my momento mori, Latin for, “Remember that you must die.”

In past centuries it was our own face in the mirror that was the momento mori. Now as we try to hide our age with injectables and lasers, we confront our magical thinking. But no matter what age we claim, death will not be fooled by our mortal games.

Diane Cameron is a Capital Region writer. DianeOCameron@gmail.com


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