I think it first came to my attention as I watched my parents aging… walking a bit slower, loosing a little hearing, slowing down, slowing down a little bit each day. Attention to those around us that are aging, graying, experiencing health, financial, and emotional reversals… What you could easily do several times over now becomes a difficult task, done at a fraction of the speed.
Aging is hard to watch in others, and inevitable for us each to experience. Isn;t it? Why yes it is. One of those silly comedian lines that has hung with me since i heard it is “Well there is one thing for sure about life- we are all going to come to the end of it some day! Yes, Death is one travel adventure we can not opt out of”
Today we learned of the mother of a friend passing on after several years of significant decline in her physical and mental capacity. We remember her as a bright eyed woman with the zest for life. But recent facebook photos and videos remind us that the sin scars of this earth were grabbing and stealing more and more of her each day.
I know i have written about grief before… but for those of us who have walked alongside a loved one who is slowly departing this earth the memories come back. The good days and bad days, the times when you look at your loved one and think “oh my, they are a shadow of what they once were.” And a quiet sense of helplessness to change the situation takes us to our knees and prayer. We may not have any power to change the situation, but God Almighty does.
I think often of the last year or two of my mom’s life, of how she went from a woman of deep strength – strong spiritual belief in God, and a strong determination to embrace whatever life threw at her. Hands and feet severely crippled by Rheumatoid Arthritus but that never slowed her down… baking , cleaning, cooking… the house was spotless, life was in order. Even her african violets knew they were loved and cared for. Funny thing is after she died they were never the same….
So as i think about the transition of yet another special person from earth to heaven I return afresh to the emotions and memories of my own life experience… and I return to the only one who can make sense of this – God.
I wanted to leave this post not on a downer, but with words of encouragement, of comfort. Here is a list that i put together for myself when my mom was aging quickly, getting more sick, and life was getting hard:
- Take time with them – spend some quality time just enjoying their company, listening to their stories, sharing life.
- Encourage them – Bring them flowers, or rent that favorite movie, buy them a fluffy bathrobe, or a new warm sweater. Or just bring yourself, your family, your kids…. make them the center of your focus. I would add – turn off the electronics – no pagers, no cell phones, no ipads, no electronics… just you and your loved one.
- Take some time for yourself – do activities that will encourage you, nurture you, recharge your battery. for me it is always reading my bible and art…. i can get lost in the depth of wisdom i find in the bible.
- Remember the past, embrace the changing present, prepare for the future – I had a hard time letting go of the image of my mother as the strong nurturing caregiver, but realized the roles reversed. Acceptance is hard, but it makes that time so much easier for everyone.
- Find a friend to talk to – have an outlet – a trusted friend that will be there to listen to you, and offer their support, encouragement, insight. Often having another person helps you see the situation differently, and it is so nice to share the weight of this season of life with someone else.
- Take pictures, stroll down memory lane, ask those hard questions you want to know about life, family history, and your loved one. Journal, video, take photos, blog… but capture the memories. One day they will be more precious. I regret not having video taped my dad’s stories of WW2, and his life experiences… they were amazing and a wealth of information that never was recorded.
- Read, and learn about health issues – find out details, ask questions so you are educated on what is happening to your loved one.
We cant change the slow slide, but we can perhaps do it a little better. End of life deserves dignity, respect, love and admiration.