Don’t Wait to Live

Treat Thompson



The Veil by Lee Madgwick

It’s a sick joke that the wiser we get the more incapable we become. At our peak mastery of life, our bodies can’t take advantage of our earned experience.

At 86 years old, Florida Scott-Maxwell reflected on how she couldn’t act on the fiery passion inside her.

Another secret we carry is that though drab outside—wreckage to the eye, mirrors a mortification—inside we flame with a wild life that is almost incommunicable. In silent, hot rebellion we cry silently—“I have lived my life haven’t I? What more is expected of me?” Have we got to pretend out of noblesse oblige that age is nothing, in order to encourage the others? This we do with a certain haughtiness, realising now that we have reached the place beyond resignation, a place I had no idea existed until I had arrived here.

It is a place of fierce energy. Perhaps passion would be a better word than energy, for the sad fact is this vivid life cannot be used. If I try to transpose it into action I am soon spent. It has to be accepted as passionate life, perhaps the life I never lived, never guessed I had it in me to live

Florida Scott-Maxwell, Measure of My Days (1968)

Old age made her life too exhausting to do so.

I am getting fine and supple from the mistakes I’ve made, but I wish a note book could laugh. Old and alone one lives at such a high moral level. One is surrounded by eternal verities, noble austerities to scale on every side, and frightening depths of insight. It is inhuman. I long to laugh. I want to be enjoyed, but an hour’s talk and I am exhausted.

Florida Scott-Maxwell, Measure of My Days (1968)

She captured how life quickly becomes a growing burden. It made her hope for a timely death.

My only fear about death is that it will not come soon enough. Life still interests and occupies me. Happily I am not in such discomfort that I wish for death, I love and am loved, but please God I die before I lose my independence. I do not know what I believe about life after death; if it exists then I burn with interest, if not—well, I am tired. I have endured the flame of living and that should be enough.

Florida Scott-Maxwell, Measure of My Days (1968)

I’ll lose my body way sooner than I’ll lose my life. That idea reminds me to live with some urgency.