I watched an interview with Graham Nash yesterday, talking about the recent deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. He was asked if these events had him thinking about his own time left on earth, and not surprisingly, he admitted that at age 74 (older than both Frey and Bowie), he had been thinking about that for some time. He then talked about how he heard the announcement of Frey’s death on the radio while driving, and how the announcer then moved on to other stories. Nash said he figured when he died it would be similar: “Graham Nash has died at the age of ____. In other stories….” and that would be it.
I hope he is wrong, because he and Bowie and Frey have left a legacy of creativity that deserves to live on, but Nash expressed a concern that is relevant to everyone at the end of life: will my time on earth have meant anything, and will I be remembered? For people like Thomas Jefferson, Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Michelangelo, the answer is pretty obvious, and for popular artists like Nash, it seems more than likely that his contributions will be celebrated for many generations at least, but for the rest of us, the worry is very real, and the answer lies in our stories, and those family members and friends who hold those stories in their hearts and keep them alive. Physicians who care for patients approaching the end of life must understand this; healing requires attention to the patient’s legacy, which honors the unique life and provides comfort to those who live on.
Nash concludes that the best he can do is keep going and enjoy the life he has left. Good advice for all of us.