Elderly parents are a wonderful gift to us
Most of us would agree that losing a child has to be the greatest loss one could experience. Also, near the top of that list would be losing a spouse, or a young child losing a young parent. What we tend to greatly underestimate is the depth of grief experienced with the loss of an elderly parent. Well-meaning people, in an effort to comfort and console, approach you and say, “Well, at least she lived a long life.” While those words are certainly true, they sometimes seem to subtly hint that your grief and your loss will not be felt as deeply. Not true.
Many baby boomers (myself included) have been or will be faced with the challenge, and the blessing, of caring for parents in their later years. Some, who for various reasons are unable to take on the role of caretaker, will make the difficult decision to place their parent in a skilled facility. Others will take on the daunting task of caring for them at home.
Whichever path you find yourself traveling, please do not let yourself fall victim to one of the greatest maladies of our culture – the tendency to believe that the elderly are of little use and less interest. If we take the time to truly see them, if we reflect on their generosity and love that has guided our lives through the years, we might just wake up and realize what a wonderful gift we have been given and what a tremendous void their passing will leave in our lives.
As my own mother is moving toward the final stages of the dying process, she verbalizes very little, but speaks volumes when I look into her eyes. I remember who she used to be, but more importantly, I see her for who she is right at this moment, and she is a very real and vital part of my life. Yes, she has lived a long life, but my heart is still broken.
I hope I live long enough to see a change in the way we “see” the elderly. From the beginning, they took us by the hand and led the way. It now is time for us to take them by the hand and honor their memories, their lives and the final part of their journey.