Last week I was invited to speak about death and dying to a group of young people (all under the age of 35). I had thought that younger people would not have so much experience with old age and death. But I was wrong. Each person who sat in the circle we formed had suffered the loss of a grandparent, parent, sibling, friend or pet. Each of the people had already felt acutely the loss of a loved one from sickness, natural causes or even murder. One young man who had served as a caregiver to an older man had witnessed the grief of the elder’s son. Later when his own mother died, he said he felt the loss as if his heart had been ripped out. Then he knew how the other had felt such grief.
It is very helpful to listen to younger people tell of their experiences with the dying, of how it feels to lose ones they have loved. It helps older people to appreciate their own lives and what it means to be a human being, to value communication across generational boundaries where we think the language is different. I learned that the language of the heart is the same for all ages.