August 3, 2016

My grandfather lived to be 103 years old.

Technically, he died six weeks shy of 103. There’s an unspoken rule in the family. We say he lived to 103.

I was the first of the family to physically get to him when my grandmother died a few years earlier. He saw me approach his wheelchair and burst into tears. “She loved you kids so much,” he wept. She was 92 and had survived breast cancer for 17 years when she finally succumbed.

Ask him his secret to longevity, and he’d say, “I have no idea why I’m here.”

Grandpa’s sister died at age 98; Grandpa was perhaps 100 or 101. My dad made a great speech at his 100th birthday, saying something about reverting back to childhood when you hit 100, and all of a sudden you start saying things like, “I’m one hundred and a half!”

I don’t envy my grandfather’s old age. The amount of loss he saw in his lifetime was just unbearable. Ask him his secret to longevity, and he say, “I have no idea why I’m here.”

I’m 45 and my life partner has died. I’m in that really weird place where I’m with friends and it seems like everyone has a partner and I’m the only single girl, except I haven’t been dumped, or recently left a cheating husband. My partner and I were strong and amazing together, and the only reason he doesn’t text me or stand next to me at parties is because he is dead. It’s been one month.

I’m hopeful that I have many years left. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about what those years hold. Statistically speaking, half of us in relationships will eventually, someday, lose a partner to death. I just hope it isn’t at 45. I know I’m going to repay this experience forward, and while I will do it with an open heart, I dread it for what it will mean to the grieving friend I’m holding.

Perhaps my greatest fear isn’t death. Perhaps my greatest fear is surviving everyone I know, like my grandfather did.

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