Want to know what the kiss of death – literally – is? Being named the world’s oldest person.
Such recognition brings with it a guarantee that within a short period, months often, the honoree will shortly shuffle off this mortal coil.
It happened again earlier this week when Misao Okawa of Japan died at age 117.
Okawa succumbed to heart failure surrounded by relatives at a nursing home in Osaka, just weeks after celebrating her last birthday.
Okawa, born in Osaka on March 5, 1898, was recognised as the world’s oldest person by Guinness World Records in 2013, meaning she lasted a surprisingly long time in her role.
Guinness World Records all but lays out a map and GPS coordinates for the Grim Reaper each time it recognizes a new world’s oldest person.
Jiroemon Kimura, Okawa’s predecessor as the world’s oldest person, held the title for 177 days. Before Kimura, Dina Manfredini’s reign lasted just 13 days.
Gertrude Weaver of Camden, Ark., who at the age of 116 years and 271 days, is Okawa’s successor. Weaver appears to be the daughter of a man born into slavery in 1861.
In all seriousness, one wonders if holding such a record is all that enviable. Beyond the fact that most of the extremely elderly have lost at least some of their faculties, there’s also the reality that by the time you reach 115 years-plus you’ve long outlived all your contemporaries and likely your children.
Okawa, who was married nearly a century ago in 1919, had been widowed for 84 years. She was survived by four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
(Top: Misao Okawa, surrounded by family, on the occasion of her 117th birthday at a nursing home in Osaka, Japan.)