8 August

Birthday Poem: Ask Me About My Life, Not My Health

by Jon Katz

Today is my 72nd birthday, it is a long time to live. Here is my birthday poem. Photo of Red and me by Maria Wulf.

If you really want to know me, don’t ask me about my health,

ask me how I wish to live.

Don’t wish me 25 more good years,

wish me a meaningful day, one at a time.

Don’t ask me how my knee is,

tell me what’s in your heart.

Please don’t tell me what you can no longer do,

tell me what you can do.

Don’t tell me about the good old days,

tell me about your good new days of meaning.

Don’t tell me about kids today, tell me about a child you encouraged¬†

when they needed encouragement,

Tell me about a child you convinced

was full of remarkableness.

Please don’t tell me what you forget,

tell me what you remember.

Please don’t tell me about “our age,” you are not me,

and your life is not my life, your age is not my age.

Age is not just about years lived.

Don’t tell me how your life is shrinking,

tell me how your soul is expanding, how much you have learned,

and are learning.

Please don’t tell me about the cost of things,

tell me about the value of things in your life.

Don’t tell me how vulnerable you feel,¬†

Tell me of the good you are doing for the

needy and the vulnerable.

Please don’t tell me stories about your doctors,

tell me stories about the books you have read

and the people you have met,

and the things you have learned.

Please don’t tell me what your doctor said,

ask me if I want to know.

Don’t tell me about the bad news you heard,

tell me about the good things you are doing,

the places you are going

and the wonderful people you have known,

in your life, and know now.

Please don’t tell me about the cost of things,

tell me about the value of things.

Don’t tell me about the time you no longer have,

tell me stories about the time you do have

and how you mean to use it, not waste it.

I am 72, please don’t tell me how age sneaks up on us,

I know where I am.

Please don’t project your fears and darkness onto me, or patronize me by insisting that we must be the same, just because we are getting older.

Please don’t speak poorly to me of your life, or of mine,

both are almost surely listening.

Don’t tell me about the sex you once had,

tell me about the love you make now.

Please don’t commiserate with me,

if you wish to know me, ask me how I wish to live,

not how much I suffer.



  1. Jon, We have never met and you don’t want a birthday wish. You have explained about your religious beliefs. As an Irish not-so-young lass myself, I am sending you an Irish blessing.
    “May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind always be at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.” This is one of my favorites. I’m sure you have heard it. Keep doing all your good deeds. They make many people smile.

  2. Happy birthday, Jon. Your birthday poem is wonderful. My gift to you is a suggestion to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. There is a great deal of wisdom in that book. Hope your day has gone just as you’d wished it and your birthday evening is full of love.

  3. What a wonderful philosophy. I hope your birthday today has been as great as your sharing your life with us has been for us. “The best is yet to be” is a true statement, indeed.

  4. What a great photo of you and Red. I learned a lot about dogs from reading your books. My favorite is still “The Story of Rose”.

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