During all the different stages of our lives we can set a pretty accurate time frame until we get to the stage called ‘ageing’. Death is such an exceptional occurrence when we are younger that we can pretty well ignore it. We can certainly ignore thinking about it.

We know pretty well how much of our lives we will spend at school, how much we will spend at University or training if that is what we plan to do, and how long our working lives are likely to be. Once we get to roughly 65 and think about retiring, then uncertainty starts to creep in. How long will we be retired for? This is difficult as it determines what activities we plan to take on after we have finished with work and how long our pensions or superannuation will have to last for.

As we move further into our retirement the uncertainty grows. How far ahead can we plan things for. Will it be a few years or perhaps decades? How physically fit will we be? This latter determines the type of tasks we can plan to do e.g. paint the inside of the house, and what type of needle craft or other hobbies will we still be able to do?

A few months ago a friend I had had for over 50 years passed away. We had lived in different cities for many years and as she got more fragile and didn’t travel I tried to visit her whenever possible. Each time we parted I think we both wondered if we would see each other again but it wasn’t a big issue as she had been frail for a while (she was over 90) and we just assumed we would catch up again in a few months.

Last time I visited her it was different. I hugged her goodbye but when I looked back at her I went back for another hug. We did this a few times. It was as though we knew it would be the last time we would see each other.

I often wonder why this happened. Did she know her time was limited? Did I know that this was to be the case? As we get older do we become aware of the time we have left and if so how do we know? Does frailty increase for some, making them aware of their limited lives?

I grew up with the story of my grandfather, a farmer, who moved in with his daughter when he had to give up his farm. He took over her huge kitchen garden and for the whole time he was with her he kept the family supplied with fruit and vegetables. One spring he finished the planting, had a stroke from which he never regained consciousness, and died a week later. I assume that as soon as he finished planting he realised his job was done and it was time to go.

This warning or awareness is something I think all older people must ponder. It ties in with the debate about whether we want to be resuscitated when the end is near. I certainly don’t want it, particularly now I’ve discovered how rarely it is successful. Is this part of the end of our lives something we should be thinking about and discussing? I don’t know. It all seems to be unknown.