What Would You Choose?
Imagine that you are eighty years old. You have lived a full life and now you are slowing down. You have some aches and frailties, but for the most part you are doing well.
Then imagine you are suddenly given a perfectly healthy young body. But your spirit is still eighty. You remember all your life experiences and the wisdom you gained from them.
That is what happened to Clara, the protagonist of my novel Never Again. After her transformation, she was delighted with her vitality and health, but also found her new life confusing, and the incongruity between her body and spirit increasingly distressing. Finally she asked the Elirians, the immortal extraterrestrials who had transformed her, if she could have her old body back—and learned that she could.
As she struggled with her choice, she turned again and again to nature. She saw herself in the tree that held onto its leaves too long and was bent with snow, and in the flowers that were still blooming in late fall when it was time to make seeds. When the Elirians asked her about birth and death, she explained the human life cycle by comparing it to the seasons on planet Earth.
In recent months I have given several talks about Never Again. I tell my audience Clara’s story up to her point of choice, and then ask, “What would you choose?”
It has been interesting to hear their answers. The ages of the people in my audiences has been between late forties and early eighties. Most were over sixty.
The discussions were lively.
The younger people were more likely to choose to keep the young body. They were into life and wanted more. Perhaps it was hard for them to imagine what it would be like to be eighty. Older people in the audience, with some exceptions, chose to return to their old body. Some said they loved their retirement, not having to be on a schedule, following their own rhythms, enjoying their hobbies. Others spoke of looking forward to seeing what lay beyond, to reconnecting with loved ones who had died before them. No one over eighty chose to keep the young body.
Then, of course, they asked me what I would choose.
It is a difficult decision. Oh, to have a young body again! To be able to leap and run and dance for hours, to reclaim lost yoga postures, and climb high and far in the mountains. To wake without pain. There is also the lure of the path not taken, and the tempting thought that I now have the patience and maturity to be a much better parent than I was the first time around.
But like Clara, I am weary, so full of memories I feel I can hardly hold more. Clara said, “Too many memories. They weigh me down like the pack I carried up the mountain. No, heavier. Much heavier. Like an immense manuscript hanging over me, riffled by the thumb of God, a blur of endless pages falling on me, page upon page, pressing me into the ground.”
I find the increasingly impersonal and electronic world daunting. And I do not want to sit in a hospice room and watch my elderly children die before me.
The season of my life turns. I am curious about what comes next. Already I feel my skin becoming more permeable, the boundaries of myself softened. I long for a more complete blending with Spirit, a longing that has called me all my life.
Not yet, not quite yet. But definitely I don’t want to wait another fifty or more years.
What would you choose?