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Closure.org Blog

Time Enough for Love?

By Jonathan Weinkle, MD

It’s been nearly forty years since Robert A. Heinlein wrote the novel Time Enough for Love, in which the immortal Lazarus Long comes to the realization that he is terminally bored. The two-thousand-year-old Long finds that he has exhausted the experiences that make life interesting and worthwhile, and wants to do the one thing that his unique genetics and repeated rejuvenation treatments render impossible—die.

We don’t live as long as Long, yet coming to the end of our much shorter life spans we also seem to find that the color has drained out of life in much the same way. Passion, fascination, and anticipation are replaced by a seemingly endless cycle directed solely at trying to extend life, without trying to fill it with anything.

In caring for the terminally ill, the very old, and others who are approaching life’s final scene, we have begun at last to think about quality of life, and now through palliative care and hospice arrangements are addressing pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and other distressing symptoms. It seems to me that among these symptoms that require our attention should be loss of purpose. Whether resigned or resistant to the idea of dying, each of us ought to feel that we still have a role to play in the world in the time remaining. What that role will be depends on the soul and may be limited by the sickness, but it may still be fresh and surprising: inventor, sage, pundit, lover, agitator, peacemaker, poet, or parent. Often it is in the closure of relationships long-strained, or in the uttering of words long-suppressed.

Long’s caretakers, “daughters” many generations descended from him, brightly encourage him to see that he has “time enough for love,” to find a purpose and passion that remains new and exciting. We should likewise be filling our loved ones, not just with medicines, but with meaning for each and every day they have left.


Written by robots= on November 6th, 2012 at
Tagged with: Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, quality of Life, palliative care