Should we hope to die at 75?  That’s the premise of a long and provocative article at The Atlantic.  As Ezekiel Emanuel, its author, writes:

Seventy-five years is all I want to live. I want to celebrate my life while I am still in my prime. My daughters and dear friends will continue to try to convince me that I am wrong and can live a valuable life much longer. And I retain the right to change my mind and offer a vigorous and reasoned defense of living as long as possible. That, after all, would mean still being creative after 75.

What should we make of this?  That’s what Derek, Alastair and I discuss on this week’s episode.  Give it a listen and let us know in the comments what you think.

Special thanks to MK Creative Arts for the audio editing.

Finally, as always, follow Derek and Alastair for more tweet-sized brilliance.


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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. […] latest episode of Mere Fidelity has just been posted. This week Derek, Matt, and I discuss a Christian attitude towards mortality […]


  2. This was a really great discussion, guys. I’d only add three small things:
    1. The practical matter of creating a living will is frequently underattended to in our day and age.
    2. The number of people from suffering from disabilities of the type that Emanuel fears is only going to grow as Baby Boomers age, especially since doctors are still paid primarily to extend their lives. It will take both serious theological reflection in sermons, books, articles, etc. as well as sustained church-based mercy ministry to minister to this group of people, since many of them (at least the folks I frequently saw in the hospital) may not have accumulated the sort of wisdom you mentioned, their children are only loosely affiliated with the church, they’re often in-and-out of various medical facilities, and they sure don’t have much money.
    3. The short story “Fidelity” captures the themes you took up beautifully and would make a great topic for a future podcast. It’s by this dude in Kentucky you might have heard of named “Wendell Berry.”


    1. Hi Matthew L. – I just want to say that I hadn’t read your comment when I posted my comment above, so it is not a response to your comment ( I must have been writing/editing mine when you posted yours)


  3. Die at 75? I hope not! I feel I have a lot of work left to do and that would only leave me 4 1/2 years! Of course, I realise I have no choice, unless I opt for suicide, which is not something I have in mind! Two of my friends and three family members have died in recent weeks aged 69-75 , one of them suddenly, and three after brief illnesses. It is in God’s hands.
    I have written this before even listening to your Podcast, but I have read the feature you discussed, and I was not impressed. I’ll try to be prejudice-free when I listen to your podcast and, hopefully respond to it… but no promises :-)


  4. I have long thought graveyards should be restored to church buildings whenever practicable. While none of my relatives are buried in a churchyard, we do try to visit the family graves several times a year. We put flowers before the graves and stand in silence and pray. My younger cousins often feel no connexion to dead relatives they never knew, so they often grumble, but I think they will come to understand. Perhaps other Americans can do the same.


  5. I’ve listened to your discussion, and I am very impressed :-) If your life-spans are ‘average’, you certainly have more future than past in this world so I am impressed that you have given so much thoughtful consideration not only to the fact that death comes to us all, but also to your own deaths and ‘dying well’.I now have considerably less future than past in this world, unless I live to be 142, which would really be one for the Guinness Book of Records!
    I have thought a great deal about death and dying but there’s a paradox because I also think more about living and despite the inevitable decline in health, energy (and income!) I count my blessings more than ever before. I really like your attitudes to older people and what we have to offer and I was amused [because it’s true :-) ] by the comment that some of us older folk have lots of experience but not much wisdom. It’s also true that some people might think of your discussion as ‘the most morbid conversation’ – I would certainly have thought so when I was younger :-). Now I have my eternal hope in Christ and he wants us to live life in abundance. I think there can be problems if ‘abundance’ is interpreted as ‘fun’, ‘pleasure’, ‘living it up’ and so on. For me, it is about being fully alive – sometimes overjoyed, sometimes heartbroken, sometimes angry, sometimes in considerable physical pain, sometimes comfortable and contented …but never bored. I get the impression from several of my friends that their problem with death is not death in itself, but pain and suffering and fear of the unknown.I think that if we expect to have cherries with no stones, roses with no thorns, we will struggle with aging and dying. A great strength to me is that no matter what I suffer, it is nothing compared with the suffering of Christ on the cross.
    This is why Alastair’s quote from Ecclesiastes really meant a lot to me – the whole passage, but especially 7:4. I’m no great fan of Nietzsche, but I do like his phrase ‘the joy beneath the pain.’ I believe that if we are unwilling or unable to mourn, we deprive ourselves of our deepest joy in Christ, which, as you well know, is completely different from worldly pleasure or ‘fun.’
    My mother quoted another passage from Ecclesiastes to me when she was dying. She said, ‘Some people just don’t realise that for everything there is a season…’ She was more at peace with her impending death than we were and seemed to have taken on the task of preparing us for it. Her last words to me were ‘God bless you.’ She died well.
    I hope Ezekiel Emmanuel listens to your podcast!


  6. […] sickness unto death as a memento mori. Other men are nihilists, but Christians can remember death as God would have us understand it. The saints can hold hourglasses, plaster skulls, ticking clocks, as if to say, Thou must die. For […]


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