The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty

by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

Paperback, 1998




Ballantine Books (1998), Edition: Ballantine Books ed, 225 pages


From the author of Writing a Woman's Life comes an inspirational reflection on aging and the gift of life in your 70s and beyond.  When she was young, distinguished author and critic Carolyn Heilbrun solemnly vowed to end her life when she turned seventy. But on the advent of that fateful birthday, she realized that her golden years had been full of unforeseen pleasures. Now, the astute and ever-insightful Heilbrun muses on the emotional and intellectual insights that brought her "to choose each day for now, to live." There are reflections on her new house and her sturdy, comfortable marria≥ sweet solitude and the pleasures of sex at an advanced a≥ the fascination with e-mail and the joy of discovering unexpected friends. Even the encroachments of loss, pain, and sadness that come with age cannot spoil Heilbrun's moveable feast. They are merely the price of bountiful living.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ElizabethChapman
Crisply and beautifully written observations of what it means to be a woman in her sixties in our time and culture. Originally published in 1997, this book has become even more meaningful since Heilbrun's suicide in 2003. She had always vowed to end her life when she turned 70, believing that a slow loss of self in advanced old age was infinitely worse than deciding on one's own when it was time to go.

She made that choice not at 70 as she predicted, but at the age of 77. Her death was controversial -- why on earth would anyone kill themselves when they weren't yet terribly sick or impaired? -- but speaks to a conviction about the value of life that is startling. Her last note read as follows: "The journey is over. Love to all." It's your call whether her decision was foolhardy or courageous.

In "The Last Gift of Time" Heilbrun articulates many ideas you will have thought yourself, but never as clearly or eloquently. And she formulates many ideas you will disagree with, which is all the more interesting. What is clear throughout is that she utterly relished life, which gives her choice on how to conclude it a stunning resonance.

In the spirit of honoring a life well-lived, I should note that Heilbrun is the author of the delightful Kate Fansler mystery series, written under the pen name of Amanda Cross. Vastly enjoyable, good mystery, and highly intelligent, just like Heilbrun herself.
… (more)
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
Such a beautiful moving book. Made me feel more pleased with getting older! I'd read the whole thing before I realized she had indeed committed suicide, after writing about her decision not to in the first chapter. Somehow I'd missed that. A beautiful voice gone.

Gave it a 4 only because some of the chapters, written in the late 90s, are dated - like the one about email and the internet.… (more)
LibraryThing member LadyD_Books
An eloquent look at life after 60 and beyond? Well, I don't think so. The writings of this author clearly leave the reader with no hope!! If one hasn't discovered a real sense of meaning, of true purpose to one's life... then afterward you end up with 'Woe is me, a circle of regrets ' looking back at my Que Sera choices. I thought at the beginning I would be pointed to one's cheering words of encouragement reaching age 60 and beyond. Instead, I read about a dog, purchasing a home, always doing email and being in isolation with one's own wrong thinking. Only leading to a suicide choice at 77. I was so saddened and disappointed in reading this book. Had the author known the love of God perhaps she would have been given the opportunity to share a true identity of knowing Christ with others and the liberating truth of serving God and others with tremendous joy in her heart? May God's love break through to us at any age, so that we can celebrate and rejoice in His Eternal Gift to us!… (more)
LibraryThing member bookcrazed
In her youth, Heilbrun was one of those who imagined that life after seventy would be so burdened with physical and mental difficulty that life would not be worth living. Even as she entered her sixties, she continued to harbor the plan that she had set out in her twenties — to commit suicide on her seventieth birthday. In addition to the physical limitations that she anticipated in her sixties, she experienced a new joy in living, a sort of joy that had been impossible at any time in her younger years. Buying and furnishing her "own house" and discovering the pleasures of email and rediscovery of old friends through the power of the Internet were two of the things that made her change her mind about offing herself at seventy. In The Last Gift of Time, Heilbrun, now in her seventies, looks back on the unexpected delights of her seventh decade and looks forward to discovering what's in store in her seventies — and maybe beyond. Heilbrun's writing has been finely honed over her long career, and that makes the reading of her discoveries a pleasant task for readers of all ages who take pleasure in fine writing. (April 2009)… (more)


Original language


Physical description

225 p.; 5.18 inches


0345422953 / 9780345422958

Local notes

Page: 0.5764 seconds