What is there in literature that prepares us for this? What kind of story can one create about gradual decline, increasing disability, and eventual death? There’s no gripping plot here. The obstacles tend to involve medical interventions that will temporarily postpone inevitable death, and allow a bit of fairly good living for a little longer.
There are novels where a character reflects on his or her life from the perspective of the death bed (e.g., Patrick White’s The Eye of the Storm, or Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger). But those stories are not really about old age and decline, but about the life that has been lived.
Perhaps we need to turn to poetry, not fiction, for literature that can help us make sense of the decline of life? A.R. Ammons in "In View of the Fact," talks of:
love that can grow brighter
and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .
Dylan Thomas, in his wonderful voice, reads "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night":
there is also a copy of the poem and a reflection on it:
But, I’m not willing to give up the search for fiction, yet, perhaps from other cultures? Suggestions welcome!