Bill Sniffin: A Birthday Brings Thoughts About Death, Memories, And Best Decisions

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, "“When us oldsters scan the obits, we will often say ‘old enough’ or ‘too young,’ which usually compares the decedents to our own age. Young people have no idea what I am talking about here.”

Bill Sniffin

March 23, 20245 min read

Bill Sniffin lots of snow 1 16 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Perhaps the biggest reason to celebrate a 78th birthday is that you are still here on the planet celebrating at all.

As an aging baby boomer, it is disconcerting that 3,000 of my fellow boomers are dying each day. And yet I am still here. Hooray. I intend to be around a lot longer. Let’s hope.

Now, back to that birthday.

So many cliches, so little time.

My favorite birthday cliche is that old saw about how does it feel to have your future behind you?

Or time sure flies when you are having fun.

Or I’m vertical. That sure beats the alternative.

Alas, as one of the oldest Baby Boomers (conceived in June 1945), it pains me to say that some 22 million of our 80 million baby boomer members have already died. 

Death is a continuing conversation of folks of my age. I can also boast that I have passed the 77.2 average dying age of a man in the USA.

So many good people are gone. It begs the question: “Why are they gone and why are we still here?” Lots of blessed luck.

Two Best Things

An old friend from my days at Valley High School in Elgin, Iowa, stopped by this week. Everett Rowland asked me what were the two best decisions that happened in my life?

First, was marrying my wife Nancy almost 58 years ago

Second, was moving to Wyoming almost 54 years ago.

My younger colleagues at Cowboy State Daily tease me because I am always scanning the obituaries for stories. A few months ago, I found an obit for a gal who had fostered over 40 children. To me she was a real hero but then I could never find that obit again. Those are the kinds of nuggets an old newspaperman watches for.

When us oldsters scan the obits, we will often say “old enough” and “too young,” which usually compares the decedents to our own age. Younger people have no idea what I am talking about here.

I used to laugh at oldsters who acted and talked like I do today. These old-timer traits came along quickly, it seems.

How About A ‘Recital’

Retired U. S. Sen. Al Simpson, who is 92, says old folks get together and often have “an organ recital.” How is your heart? Your kidneys? Your prostate?

Old friend Ray Hunkins held a big soiree in Tubac, AZ last week to celebrate his 85th birthday. I heard it was a nice gathering and we wished we could have been there.

In a recent CSD column, Sally Ann Shurmur says she lost friends to the Covid epidemic and yet she never caught the disease, although she worked every day at the old Casper Star Tribune.

I was not as brave as her. Our kids were frantic that we would get sick and die, especially their mom who suffers from MS with a weakened auto immune system. We spent most of the time behind closed doors.

When Covid first hit, we happened to be in Las Vegas attending a Rod Stewart concert when our kids panicked and said we needed to get back to Lander, right now!

The concert was one of the best-ever but the audience was only about half full. Stewart joked from the stage that this might be his last one.

This was March 11, 2020 and I was emailing photos from the concert to our kids.

We stayed until the end of the concert but noticed that Caesar’s Palace was somewhat ghostly as we walked out. We headed back to Lander the next day. The Nevada governor shut down all the casinos the next week.

We just had our seventh Pfizer Covid booster shot. Will this be enough? We have never caught Covid. Our fingers are crossed.

Generations Of People

On my birthday, our oldest daughter Alicia Haulman of Montrose Facetime’d us on our iPhones and showed off her three grandchildren, Hailey, Logan, and Harper, who were tearing her house apart and wearing her out. We loved seeing our great-grandchildren but it almost made a person weary watching how much energy is required for an older person to keep up with these young-uns.    

My favorite joke about old men is: You know when old age hits, they say the first thing you do is forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up and then you forget to pull your zipper down.

I will leave you with this definition of a successful life from Emerson:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Bill Sniffin can be reached at:

Share this article



Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.