..it is very important to be in love with life. I have met people…in their 80s who love life so much that, behind their aged bodies, the numbers disappear.
Keith Haring’s journals show what a deep and observant thinker he was, and also what a great loss the creative world suffered when he died of AIDS. Of course, most great creatives are observant–and their unique eye on the world is what sparks their art.
This young man who died at only 31 had already noticed that love of life is key to aging well. When he wrote that little gem of wisdom he knew that aging would not be in the cards for him, which makes the observation so poignant.
We are lucky to have three friends in their 80s who are all involved, active and interesting. They serve as terrific role models for the way we’d like to age. On the flip side, I also know a 60-year-old who has given up, old before his time, claiming the title out loud all the time. The difference between the two approaches seemed a mystery, until I read the Journals.
Haring was right: it’s love of life that drives us to not give up when age throws us a few curves. As he aptly observed, age becomes meaningless in the face of a life well-lived. I see this in my friends: active, involved, fit. I wouldn’t even say “spry,” that word we use to describe active older people. “Fit” fits.
That’s not to say, though, that we can live exactly as we had in our younger days.
The scene was Half Moon Bay, Calif. overlooking the water. As we devoured a lunch of meaty lobster rolls together, our 82-year-old friend reminisced about the days when he’d take off at the drop of a hat to ski Vail or Aspen or Tahoe. His voice took on the enthusiasm of a young man as he regaled us with tales of the active and busy life he’d had decades ago. “Before my back gave out,” he said, wistfully.
His words touched me beyond measure. I could have cried for the longing I heard in his voice, for how much he missed his younger days, those days when activity didn’t have to be limited. And I was reminded just how quickly the days of youth pass. As we age, they seem to fly by faster and faster.
It’s not my imagination: people today ARE aging with more vitality and remain contributors to the world around them far longer than my parents and grandparents did. It’s not unusual for us to share activities with our 80-something-year-old friends and they often put ME to shame with their level of physical fitness.
The past year has been an education for me. I’ve always been an enthusiastic participant in life, but spending so much time with friends who have life-threatening diseases makes me appreciate it so much more. And really watching friends 20 years older than us age so youthfully? An inspiration. Keith Haring attributed it to love of life and you know what? I can’t disagree.