"I'm just not too jazzed about the thought of dying," says the old woman next to me, and it's a far less abstract consideration for her than it is for me. Her kidneys have failed, and she's telling me about how she's going to give a new dialysis place a shot, to see if it has its act together more than the other guys. She isn't very hopeful—she has an appointment with the dialysis people tomorrow, and an appointment with the hospice on the next day.

I'm mostly quiet as I drive her home, letting her talk. She speaks about her frustration with her failing memory, her desire to be there for her son, the horrors of medical bureaucracy. She describes levels of fear and frustration that I can't imagine, but her tone and manner is unperturbed and practical. The experience is disconcerting, listening to her talk about impending death as if it were just another banality, something to be planned around. I wonder if there's a point where we become so inured to fear and pain that it simply becomes part of the fabric of our reality, unremarkable and taken for granted. Or perhaps there just comes a time where we really do fully accept the fact of death, and that the acceptance is liberating.

As I pull up to her apartment building, she apologizes for monopolizing the conversation. I shake my head and tell her that we're both better off for my having listened.