There's a time in every young person's life when they assume, without ever really thinking about it, that they're not only invincible, but also immortal. Usually it's around the teenage years and early 20s when we labour under this delusion, and I have to confess that I was no exception. When we're young, we think we're going to be young forever, and old age and death seem so distant as to be unimaginable. Then one day we wake up and realise that, not only are we 'over the hill', we're also actually halfway down the other side and somebody has cut the brakes. What's more, we don't even recall getting to the top of that hill to begin with. Shouldn't we at least remember the view?
When we're young the world is ours for the taking, and everything seems geared towards us and runs in perfect synchronicity with the pace of our lives. Then, one day, it dawns on us that we're no longer participants in life's race, but merely observers, sitting on the sidelines, watching younger people revelling in a world that appears to have been created exclusively for them. How one can be relegated to the benches without being aware of when it happened is a bit of a mystery, but trust me, that's the way things go.
Now, believe me when I say that I'm not the kind of person who revels in anyone's death, but I sometimes wonder if younger people's untimely expiration is Nature's way of reassuring us 'oldies' that being young isn't necessarily an indication of being accorded favoured status, and that, young or old, we're all equally subject to termination at short (or even no) notice. If being 20 is no guarantee we'll reach 50, then perhaps 50-year-olds shouldn't feel so threatened by the passage of time as they do. Life's a lottery and our numbers can come up at any moment. Not quite a 'lucky dip' - but you get the point, I'm sure.
I feel that I should somehow find the above notion reassuring, but for some reason I remain unconvinced. How about you?
I lingered by a gate a little while
and watched some children play in fields of green.
Their joyous voices gave me cause to smile
and filled my troubled soul with thoughts serene.
If only I could once again be young
and join them in their happy escapades,
then all my years would be a song well-sung
and I could claim I've lived my life in spades.
I leave the gate - alas, my mood turns low,
the chills of age envelop my frail frame.
I know I have not very long to go
'til he who wields the sickle calls my name.
But I have lived and loved, both lost and won,
and now the course of my life's race is run.
(Harvest Gate by Iain Osborne.)