The other week at work I was confronted with my own mortality quite unexpectedly. There was this older couple staying at my work, well into their 90s, and the husband had taken a fall down the steps out back of the hotel. I heard the story recounted through other guests, who said his wife thought they were in 1946.
He was in the hospital when I got to work that day, but they came back that evening while I was working the desk. He had a bandage on his head and was still wearing his hospital robe over a pair of khaki pants. He asked me if it was possible to get some help in with their luggage. I don't like to admit this but I didn't feel like doing it at that moment. I was extremely busy up there answering the phone and checking people in, but I told them I'd come to help them when I got a free moment.
So I went back to their room in the back corner of the hotel and knocked on the door. It took them a while to answer and the first thing I noticed was the stench of their room, it smelled like straight up piss. He told me he was having trouble finding his keys, and his wife stood there looking very confused. Immediately I felt guilty for not wanting to leave the desk to help them.
I entered the room to start to help them find their keys and he looked in his pocket and found them, and then said let's go. He moved extremely slowly out of the room and then out of the door to the parking lot. When we got outside I asked him where he was parked. He wasn't sure, so I asked what type of car he had, and he said, "well, I don't know, you have so many over the years you know..." and kinda chuckled in an embarrassed way. So I asked him to hand me his keys so I could set off the alarm to find the car.
We found it and inched our way over to it. He was pretty fussy with me being careful with his bags, asking me not to tilt them and what not. I helped him carry his bags in, hyper-aware of my youth and agility, something I take for granted each day. They seemed so confused and so slow that I wondered how they even did anything or were able to drive themselves around. I realized while putting the luggage in the room that these people were at the end of their lives.
I realized that youth was fleeting. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Somehow I go about each day mostly blissfully unaware of this. I thought that I had started to accept my own death, and it's easy to think of it nonchalantly when you just imagine winking out like a light or crossing over into a different dimension, but old age, foggy brain, failing body? That isn't pretty to think about at all. This was a humbling reminder that those things will likely visit me, and I spent the rest of the night trying to come to terms with my own aversion to thinking about them.