Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Rent

Aging Gracefully (Or Not): Rent

Natalie Gelman

The focus on death continues quite regularly as we get older.

In 2013, at age 68, I went to see the play “Rent” with my husband at a local theater. When we got home, I wrote the following:

      In 1998, I had season’s tickets to the Fisher Theater in Detroit. In April of that year, Doug and I were in an auto accident in Barbados and I was hospitalized for a couple of months afterward. I had been air ambulanced back to Detroit and Doug had moved to Michigan.

      I was unable to go to the theater to see “Rent” because I was in the hospital. Doug and my daughter Carrie went as she was in from California at the time to visit me. Years later I saw the movie and thought it okay, but it did not have an impact on me.

      When we went yesterday, I found myself feeling very emotional when the character Angel died. Suddenly the word rent impacted me. I felt the temporary nature of people in my life. I reached for Doug’s hand and I was aware of tears in my eyes.

      The feeling continued through the rest of the show. I thought of my family and friends and was aware that we truly have a rental relationship with them. We are not together forever. I also reflected on a different reaction to the thought of dying; my age entered the experience and I was feeling closer to when I will die and thus lose my connection to the people I have “rented” as well as their loss of me. That feels sad and brings tears.

      As we walked home from the theater, I asked Doug how long after the accident he had seen the play with Carrie. He said he was quite sure I was in the hospital in Ann Arbor at the time. The significance to me when he said that was that I was aware I was in critical condition in the ICU unit at Providence Hospital for five weeks, and, had he seen the show then, I imagined it would have been very intense.

      It certainly would have been for me considering how sad I was feeling with no one potentially terminally ill in my life on this day.

Natalie Gelman can be contacted at Her website is


Submitted by William (not verified) on Thu, Jun 26, 2014

If you haven't read the small book "The Dash," take a look at it. It speaks to the dash that is between the year you were born and the year you die. Barry Parker first introduced me to it when his wonderful and beautiful mother dies a number of years ago. The message is that it's what we do between when we are born and when we die that is of greatest importance, and if we understand our impact on others, we will all try hard to be good, to be generous and to be understanding. I'm glad Natalie that you are still with us, making the world a better place!