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The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal

The 2017 Eric Hoffer Awards

“THE HOURGLASS is a well written, intense and openly honest guide to accepting and understanding every aspect of aging and the inevitability of death and a must read for those wanting to find clarity and comfort in an often uncomfortable reality.”

IndieReader, May, 2017


"The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal by Pamela Cuming is an insightful book about a topic no human being can escape. Cuming’s book addresses how to live with the knowledge that one will eventually die. But it isn’t only about a person’s impending doom. She discusses at length how to view the aging process and how to accept it as part of life.
Even though the book deals with aging and death, the author remains positive and supportive. There are emotional passages, as it would be impossible to share the details about the passing of a loved one without evoking sadness, but Cuming’s considerate and philosophical method gently guides the reader to see things differently. She never loses sight that no matter what, death is an unknown and no matter how prepared, most will be afraid. And it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to be scared. The reading experience, however, is non-threatening and life-affirming.
The Hourglass is well-researched and approaches the subject matter with the dignity it deserves. It would behoove all people to read this, because no matter what, every individual will have to face aging and dying at some point. Hopefully after reading The Hourglass, the reader will feel comfortable discussing the topic with their loved ones, and the book goes a long way towards ensuring that will be the case."

“The Hourglass is a powerful, objective, unflinching, and yet profoundly empathic work. It is a must read for all those who seek to live life to the full, from start to finish. “
Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist, Peter C. Whybrow MD

“The Hourglass offers an original framework that clarifies the different ways we attempt to cope with our fears of death and aging. It’s a honest and courageous book that can help us to make gracious peace with the inevitable and to find meaning and dignity in the time we are permitted.”
Physican and recent widow, Dr. Diane Staves


As we play out the hand called Life, we are sometimes optimistic, and other times pessimistic. Sometimes we’re angry and other times playful. Sometimes we are wise and balanced; other times, we rage against the good, good night. The way we feel and behave is a function of our mindset.

At every waking moment we have a Mindset about Aging and Mortality, or what I call a MAM. On any given day, all of us fall somewhere on the continuum Feeling Helpless and Vulnerable to Feeling Empowered and Confident. At the same time,we are positioned somewhere along the continuum Anticipating or Experiencing Good Fortune to the opposite pole, Experiencing or Anticipating Adversity.

Putting these dimensions together yields four fundamental MAMS: the Castaway, the Stargazer, the Warrior, and the Celebrant. And then there is the fifth MAM which represents a blend of the attributes of the four primary MAMS. That is the Sage.

The key to living a rich life, to aging gracefully and to dying well is to move around the wheel, changing mindsets as circumstances change. For example, the Celebrant mindset helps people remain optimistic even in the face of tragedy, loss, aging and death. When faced with a challenge, the Warrior focuses on meeting it with courage and conviction. When it becomes apparent that the challenge cannot be overcome, Castaways accept it. The Stargazer element within us helps us make a leap of faith and believe in God or Christ or something greater than ourselves which we cannot see, touch or even truly define. The person with the mindset of a Sage is able to blend the best attributes of all of the mindsets and, in the process, to develop a perspective that renders life richer and death at least acceptable.

The model provides a framework that ties together the stories throughout the book, facilitates the conversation, and helps provide a roadmap to guide us through the difficult passages of aging, dealing with the death of loved ones and even contemplating our own demise.

Chapter One: The Hourglass:Birth, Death and The In-Between

The Hourglass.
Fear of Dying.
Confronting Death.
Death with Coffee.
The Curse of Old Age
The Gift of Old Age.
Mindsets About Aging And Mortality

Chapter Two: Mind Matters:Placebos and Nocebos

Raging against the Dying of the Light
In the Bunker.
Life is good.
Drama Queens and Pollyannas.
Bouncing back.
Fantasy Island.
The Queen of Denial.
Caught in Despair.
The Accepting Castaway
The Dark Gift.
The Sage Warrior
Dark Night of the Soul

Chapter Three: The War of the Ages:Confucius Be Damned

Safety vs. Autonomy.
Double Blind.
Gratitude Deficit Disorder.
Confucius be Damned.
The Sad Story of Dr. No.
The War of the Ages.
Ourselves, Ourselves, Only Ourselves.

Chapter Four:THE FRONT OF THE LINE:Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down
Death Watch.
Demonic Possession.
A False Reprieve.
The Dreaded Nursing Home.
Misplaced Heroics.
The Death of the Queen of Denial.
The Emotional Tsunami and the Pit Bull.
Ashes to ashes.
The Final Reunion.
Remnants and Remains.

Chapter Five: AN APPLE A DAY:Dealing with Doctors

The Director
The Technician
The Healer
The Coach

Chapter Six: MIRROR, MIRROR:Loving OurAging Bodies

To Nip and Tuck or Not.
A Work of Art
Loving Your Aging Body.
Killing the Mouse.
Redefining Beauty.
Dressing It Up.
Keeping It Clean.
Working It Out and Shaping It Up.
The Bionic Woman.
Fear of Falling.
Here's to Life.

Chapter Seven: ANTIDOTES TO AGING:The Four C's
Curious George.
Plato's Cave and The Golden Mean.
The Fountain of Youth.
One for All and All for One.
The Magic of the Four C's.
The Nester and the Nomad.
Mindsets and Movement.
Going Back in Time.
Emptying the Worry Jar.
Confronting New Challenges.
The Kindness of Strangers.

Chapter Eight: TEETER TOTTER: Loving Our Aging Mates
Marriage Vows.
The Unbridled Warrior and the Wounded Wimp.
Exasperation and Exacerbation.
Teeter Totter.
Beware the Meddler.
Beware the Time Thief.
Making a Life Out of Leftovers.
Grow Old Along with Me.

Chapter Nine: 'TILL DEATH US DO PART: The Journey Through the Shadows

Upon Impact
The Child Bride
The Miracle Girl
The Shrine
Five Card Draw
The Two-Limbed Tree
The Red Couch

Chapter Ten: THE MORTALITY CLUB:Talking of Death over Coffee