Life expectancy and some thoughts at 73


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy for males in the United States is 73 1/2 years. For women, the expectancy is about six years longer.

Seeing as how I observed my 73rd birthday on Monday, time is sliding by pretty fast. I do realize that this statistic is an average and that some men die young while others approach the century mark and beyond. Still, it causes one to think.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After being treated for a while, I read up on the subject and discovered that 50% of people with CHF die within five years of being diagnosed. I inquired of my cardiologist and this information was confirmed.

The five-year mark was August of 2021, so I am a survivor of that statistic. Perhaps I will go beyond the CDC average for longevity for American men. Perhaps not. The next six months will tell the tale.

My family, especially my two sons who live close, hate my bringing up the subject in just about any form. They believe that such talk is morbid. Especially morbid, according to them, is what I do with my senior high school annual.

Several years ago, I discovered a Facebook page maintained by one of the women in my graduating class that notes who and when a member of the graduating class of 1969 died.

Personally, I found that interesting and helpful and it answered the question of  what happened to my classmates. When I discovered that someone had died, I put a small cross by their name. If the obituary was included, I would read it. In a few paragraphs, I could know the very short version of their life.

Several of my football teammates were gone. As was a cheerleader. In fact, somewhere between 35% and 40% of the graduating class of Dobyns-Bennett High School of Kingsport, Tennessee have left me behind.

It’s a bit sobering if you are my age. Psalm 90 (KJV) says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O LORD, how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; That we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

Younger people almost never “number their days.” When we are young, we believe that our days have an infinite number. As we get older, we realize that we were wrong. We also, at some point, take seriously the truth of Hebrews 9:27 (KJV), “… it is appointed unto men once to die…”

While nearly all my surviving classmates are long retired, I am still working. I have been confined to the house for six weeks due to back surgery and, if retirement is binge watching TV or reading innumerable books is what s ahead for me, my mental health is in jeopardy.

My father-in-law retired. Then he took on a number of challenges and opportunities and retired about three more times. He’s 94 now and possibly healthier than the average man 30 years his junior. That’s my role model for the “latter years.”

My current plan is to head back to work in a couple of weeks, pending the approval of the neurosurgeon. I will also be starting physical therapy and perhaps taking advantage of the “Silver Sneakers” aspect of Medicare that allows me to have a gym membership.

It has been many, many months since I have ridden my Harley. The Physician’s Assistant said that one of our goals is to get me back on my motorcycle by spring if I still have a desire to ride. That’s a goal I can live with. I have put myself on a diet and have lost some weight and I have a goal there as well.

Poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I have a different point of view than Thomas. I believe that I will not go into the  dying of the light but into Pure Light Himself. Nevertheless, I do not desire to go earlier than I need to. When I do go into that good night (or day if it comes then) I want to have lived the rest of my life drinking in all the goodness and grace that it holds.

I am planning to live to at least 83. When I attain that goal, as I hope to do, then I will reassess and set a new goal. If I do not attain it, then I hope that all the years ahead are filled with purpose, contentment, and joy. So, Happy Birthday to me. Now let’s get going.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]