As I looked over the blogs I've written in the past one of my recurring themes (although not intentionally) has been aging and the elderly.
Perhaps this is due to my own age and the realization that although getting older is a process we all experience from the womb onward, facing the decline of old age is as unnatural an experience as there is.
Just this past week we spent time with my wife's folks (who are approaching 80) and also had lunch with a church friend who shared her 90+ year old mom's testimony with us. I've talked previously about the value of the aged but not as much about the emotional challenges that aging brings.
Our church friend lost her mother nearly a year ago and she's still feeling the void from a lifetime of security that many of our parents brought us. One of the most enlightening parts of the video testimony of this lady was her own realization of how the roles reversed between mother/daughter to daughter/mother. This I have found is one of the unnatural but necessary parts of relationship with the aging; and one I experienced when my own father's health deteriorated as he approached the latter stages of his days.
For those blessed with loving parents, they have been one of the most stabilizing forces in an unstable world.
When that begins to change there is an unnatural but necessary shift in roles and responsibility.
In order to protect the elderly's value and dignity we have to treat this transition with the utmost of care. Slowly but surely as the paradigm shifts there will be a time of real struggle as one lets go of their role as the dependable one and assumes the place of dependent. Even the most devoted child experiences the resistance because the transition feels so unnatural, and no one likes to let go of control of their life.
In my church friends life her mother shared a time when the daughter told her frankly "you're not living alone anymore, you're coming to live with me."
What I found was that although there might be immediate resistance there is actually a relief that comes from the parent when the communication from their adult child relieves them of the increasingly difficult or impossible.
Experience has shown us that as parents lose control over the day to day things they took for granted: movement, memory, health, etc., someone has to be ready to assume that role, and even the best of plans will not completely prepare us.
As natural as aging is, the emotional shift is equally unnatural.
In the case of my father, my mother had become his caretaker and she did this until she could no longer fill that role. As my sisters and I wrestled with what to do next, my wife told us "I think your mom wants you guys to make the decisions for her." Yes we were met with resistance, and even some anger, but withstanding that short period of outburst was beneficial when we witnessed my mother finally relieved of the unthinkable burden of letting go and trusting that her children were now in control.
It's a part of life that requires navigating with love and digging deep to find the ways to care for those who once cared for us.
Emotionally, it's a struggle on both sides.
Thankfully, there is One who knew the end of our days before the beginning.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
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