"This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of
newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997,
he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.
I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.
"No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."
My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving.
That was in 1999, when she was 90.
She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.
They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)
He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died
One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.
A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred."
At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."
"You're probably right," I said.
"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.
"Because you're 102 years old," I said..
"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.
That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.
He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: "I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"
An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:
"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."
A short time later, he died.
I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.
I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns. "
I think it is because he was like an ancient Buddhist sage, mindful and at peace with himself.