Learning to Death with Your Plants

It’s as if people are aging and dying in a variety of ways: There are more people becoming Alzheimer’s patients, palliative care patients, and dying prematurely from cancer. Others are homeless, abused or abandoned. More families are living together. Fewer people are taking care of their aging parents or even themselves in their time of need. Many other people face economic struggles and financial worry and many people must care for a loved one. In these times, especially, it seems as if all our lives have taken on life support.

It can feel as if the next thing you will have to deal with is death – and at a rate you just don’t want to deal with. You’re tired of having everything that used to be perfect, perfect for you, begin to crumble under its own weight. You just can’t deal with losing your independence, when you had felt that you had the independence, of your own life, to end it where you wanted it to end – and there are people waiting to pounce at the first sign of weakness – and especially at the first sign of a break.

As of 2011, almost 20 percent of adults aged 40 to 79 were living alone, most of which were women, and nearly half of those had physical disabilities. Those aged over 85 were living alone in even greater numbers.

Whatever the circumstances, most of us know when it’s time to end a relationship in our lives. We don’t have any control over their behavior or the decisions they make. In our own lives, too, we’re no longer the world’s center of attention. Each day, there are people more important than us. When you compare your lifestyle to what other people lead and how they live, your life starts to make less and less sense. And, at the end of a life, when even the most basic things like heating and light may have gone out for weeks on end, you’re tired of all of it.

It’s a relief to escape into our gardens – especially during the cold, and sometimes dead nights when we don’t feel like going out to take a walk in the dark. Even when it’s summer, the garden is a refuge from the day-to-day stresses of life, and we can be grateful for the diversity of plant life.

Several strains of plants can be particularly resilient to the many challenges you will encounter throughout your life. If you can maintain a clean, healthy garden, you can manage most things thrown at you, and you’ll reap the fruit of your hard work as a result. You can re-experience the cycles of life, which are great. But above all, you will emerge better from your experience and can look back and be proud of the things you’ve learned – especially when you see yourself growing old with less pain and greater accomplishment. That’s what makes gardening great.


Life Expectancy and Growing Old at Home, Robert H. Yerkes

Life Expectancy Changes and Cancers that Contribute to the Decreasing Survival of Premature Births, MITF/Veterans Affairs Medical Research Agency, 2007. (healthcare)

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