2024 - February - Gazette - How Old Would You Be?

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, February 29, 2024

How Old Would You Be?

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? When I ask this question, I get a variety of reactions. Some people laugh and say, “I’d be the age I am.” Others look at me with a puzzled look. But most people say something along the lines of, “Younger than I am.”

I offer many different programs at retirement communities and in this setting, most people respond to this question by saying they feel much younger than their age. They still feel like someone they were years ago.

I understand that feeling. There have been numerous times when I looked at my husband and said, “Can you believe that we’re parents of kids in their mid and late 20’s?” I still have moments when my younger years don’t feel that far off.

This sentiment of the discrepancy between the age in our heads and the age in our bodies stood front and center for me recently. My 93-year-old father fell, broke two ribs, and had internal bleeding. He was transported by ambulance to a trauma center where he spent time in Intensive Care and a step-down unit before being released to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. He then developed a collapsed lung with an infection and more bleeding on his lung. This time he was taken by helicopter back to the trauma center and spent more time in Intensive Care and then an Intermediate Care Unit – all with a chest tube for 13 days.

Thankfully, my father is strong and has a powerful will to live. He survived these traumas and is now gaining strength every day as he rehabs his way back to the life he knew.

In the acute hospital settings, I was with my dad every step of the way. I answered questions for him when he couldn’t and helped explain some of the care when he had a difficult time hearing and understanding the medical professionals. My family and I are very grateful to the many caring people who tended to my dad in a compassionate way.  

And along the way, it was interesting for me to see different reactions to my father. Some medical professionals saw the 93 age number and expected or didn’t expect things from him as a result. Others saw his age, considered what that meant physiologically, but kept open minds as to his outcomes. I think my dad surprised some of these medical professionals with how well he did. One member of the trauma team said he was their “best patient” at the time – they appreciated his smile and noncomplaining attitude.

My dad knows his age but to him it is simply a number. He loves life and works to get his body to do its best. How old would he be if he didn’t know how old he was? My dad would be who he is today, living his life to the fullest.

When we lose a loved one, we ask ourselves a similar question. “Who would we be if we didn’t know who we were as a husband/wife, mother/father, sister/brother, etc.?” One of the needs of mourners is to develop a new self-identity. Without our loved ones, we are different people with different roles. It takes time to find our new self. Please join us at one of the following gatherings to continue this conversation and others about loss, grief, and death.

More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page of the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712, or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant, and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.




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