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Once again, I am awestruck by the cycle of birth to death; from our miraculous, traumatic entrance to the sad, harrowing exit that is nature’s course.

My 93-year-old father-in-law was surprisingly healthy until a few months ago. Today, I saw him in frail condition with slurred speech and diminished energy. Seeing him was a reminder of how we evolve from a helpless baby to a helpless adult. We revert back to needing a caregiver who cushions our falls, interprets words not fully formed, cleanses and clothes, and manages nap time under protest.

I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky to live to an advanced age and luckier still if we have the resources, human and monetary, to receive attentive care. Even so, it is hard to witness and such a painful reminder of mortality, which doesn’t disturb me as much as the loss of independence towards the end.

For many years, I put my faith in life-changing milestones: Once I reach this point – once I get past that – once I accomplish this – all will be right in the world: graduating college, falling in love, launching a career, getting married, buying a house and the baby sleeping through the night. Now, I find myself thinking about events to close the loop: Retirement savings, long-term care insurance and an updated will. I waffle between denying the future and preparing for it.

Today, seeing my father-in-law, my denial side lost the battle. Medical technology has helped to prolong our lives, but nature runs its course. It’s the cycle of life.

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