Tim Parks has written a lively biography of the Medici banking empire of the Italian Renaissance.
As usual in my reading, I find one or two sentences that leap out at me and demand to be saved. One refers to the longest-lived of the dynasty, Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464), who, like several other famous people who lived long lives, was a hypochondriac.
Here's the sentence from Medici Money that resonated for me:
"Ever in a hurry, he grew old fearing he would die young." Cosimo died at 75 at a time when 50 was considered old.
Now that I have reached, as of yesterday, the age of three-score and ten, I can breathe a sigh of relief that I have not collapsed, as I often felt sure I would, and been rushed to the hospital, there entering the "undiscovered country" from whose region "no traveler returns," as Shakspeare's Hamlet says (odd because of the presence of his father's ghost, a presumed traveler from beyond).
It has never comforted me that my parents lived into their early eighties or that I have always been physically strong and healthy. I have convinced myself from an early age that any problem I developed in my body was life-threatening and a cause for major alarm. I could not imagine living into the 21st century: too unreal.
It seems comical now to recall these anxious moments, the products of a lively imagination, and to see that fear magnifies the ordinary into the urgent and dire.
Fear of death has always been strongly felt in my life. I think now it is lessening a bit as I reflect on how far I have come. I meditate on moving from darkness to light, and I read some of the many reasssuring words from saints and sages.
One of my favorite statements comes from John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic and poet of the 16th century: "I don't know what lies on the other side; I only know that a great love awaits me."
I pray that I continue to have such a high level of knowing.