Choosing Time, Purpose and Meaning in Old Age

By Genevay, Bonnie | Aging Today, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Choosing Time, Purpose and Meaning in Old Age


Genevay, Bonnie, Aging Today


Someone was banging on the upstairs door. My caregiver poked her head out to see who was there, and a gray-haired, middle-aged woman was at the door. With her was a younger man holding a notebook.

"We're looking for Bonnie Genevay," the woman said. I really was not in the mood for dealing with salespeople or people peddling religious tracts; I was prepared to be civil, but firm.

"How can I help you?" I asked. I was dressed in my best-purple slacks and a hot pink shirt-and my hair was even combed: I felt ready to send these folks on their entrepreneurial way. Then the woman asked if I was the Bonnie Genevay who was intending to commit suicide.

This momentarily threw me for a loop. "No, I'm not going to commit suicide," I said. "Where did you get that idea?"

"A friend of yours in Eastern Washington called us," they said. "We're from the mental health clinic at Harborview, and we're here to assess whether you're clinically depressed and may need our help with suicidal thoughts and ideation."

A Controlled Decision

The hackles rose on the back of my neck because, while I am ready to control the timing of my dying by stopping eating, I have no violent intentions for completing my life on this earth-which is what suicide means to me. I took a deep breath and, endeavoring to keep my voice calm, cool and collected (not my usual emotional condition!), tried to explain.

"I have great caregivers, and I am not clinically depressed," I said. "I know what I'm talking about because I was on staff at West Seattle Mental Health Clinic when the involuntary commitment law was first instituted in the State of Washington. I am of sound mind, and have as much help as I can use at this moment in time." (I briefly thought about telling them they could check back later with me on the helping thing-maybe they'd want to volunteer to be part of my care team!)

"I have a family that loves me and lots of friends. I was a therapist [who worked] with [the] elderly for 20 years and am doing very well for an old woman with arthritis, constant pain, constipation, peripheral neuropathy and blindness from glaucoma and macular degeneration."

What's Purposeful

I told my visitors about my line of thinking: I have decided to stop eating when I have no more quality of life and can no longer do what's meaningful to mereading, writing, gardening, laughing. I haven't been able to read books for five years, and I have great difficulty writing anymore, which is a monumental loss (pain doesn't create much poetic inspiration). And being bedbound is not fun.

I wound up my explanation, informing my "rescuers" that Cocie, my friend who had called them, is 82 years old, and she wants me to stay alive as long as she's alive because she has been a best friend since childhood and loves me. Earlier on, I had told Cocie the truth about my decision to stop eating (when the right time came) because I love her. I didn't want her to be shocked over news of my "sudden" death.

"Can I do anything else for you?" I asked them. They shook their heads, smiled at me and left.

My caregiver and I laughed over this remarkable interaction. I called Cocie the next day and we had a meaningful conversation. While Cocie would not do what I'm planning on doing, I believe she understands, on some deep level, that I need quality of life and a purposeful life while I am still alive.

[Sidebar]

While I am ready to control the timing of my dying by stopping eating, I have no violent intentions for completing my life on this earth.

[Sidebar]

I haven't been able to read books for five years, and I have great difficulty writing anymore, which is a monumental loss.

[Sidebar]

A Note from the Author

I wanted to share this story with Aging Today because many of you in ASA are my friends, and you mean a great deal to me (if this sounds like a love letter to ASA, be assured-it is! …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Choosing Time, Purpose and Meaning in Old Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.