This week more than ever, I’ve been contemplating this new season in life; joy mingled with sadness, and grappling once again with the fact that I cannot control time and providence.
My daughter started kindergarten this week. As she marched off into her future, I felt a terrible loss. Not an ultimate loss, but one that consisted of the transition from one season of life to another. She will never again be that little girl who gleefully played at home and followed me every waking moment. She’ll exhibit some of those qualities for some time I’m sure, but her world is now rapidly expanding and her horizons vast and full of adventures. I cried as I left her that day, and then again when I picked her up as I watched her come out to meet me after her first day of school. Already she was changed and no matter what I do I’ll never stop the marching of time as she grows older and stretches her wings a bit more with each passing day. Embracing the Change Despite the painful reality that my baby is growing up and she’ll never again be in the same place in her life, it is also a season that I’ll always cherish. We will move on to the next ones with anticipation and hope of sweet memories yet to come with each new change. Life is like this; one season change after another. As a result, this week more than ever, I’ve been contemplating this new season in life; joy mingled with sadness, and grappling once again with the fact that I cannot control time and providence. As I’ve mulled this over, it has also called to mind the seasons our seniors experience as they travel into the latter juncture of life. A Snapshot In the last two weeks I’ve heard the following seasonal descriptors:
- A wife of 40 years expressing her devastation at the fact that her husband, afflicted with Parkinson’s and now dementia, no longer recognizes her at times.
- A two- time widow admitting that seeing other couples hold hands is incredible painful as it reminds her of her immense loss.
- A husband caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s relating that a brief break that allows him to read the paper and watch part of a football game is more relief that he has had in along time.
- A widow of 8 months very candidly sharing with others how she appears to be doing well outwardly but despite her external productivity the pain and loss is crushing, and never, ever goes away. Like a garment, she wears with everything.
- A widow of just a few months stating that though her husbands death was ” expected” she’s never had to deal with death this closely and having to handle all the logistics, even their joint trust, is difficult. The constant explanation to everyone that her husband is has died is difficult, despite their preemptive planning.
More than a paycheck
While my season is new and slightly uncertain, I’m not facing a loved ones death, soul permeating grief, and a loneliness that is often suffocating. But many of our residents are and we rub elbows and mingle with them every day. Which brings me to my next point; we may be employed at a community but our roles very clearly transcend a mere paycheck. We are in the business of upholding the standards of quality of life despite the constraints of age, and coming along side the oft- brokenhearted. There is deep joy in this calling, but it is often colored with deep sorrow as we seek to meet their needs with more than food and activities.
Marching forward together
We are charged with creating community in the most literal sense and that means sharing in their lives, which means partaking in their joys and sorrows. In our individualistic society that can be tough, because it often means vulnerability and a willingness to look beyond our to-do lists and really see people. And once we do take the time to see, then dive in, lock arms, and help them march bravely into their final season of this beautiful life. This may mean more complicated jobs, more emotional experiences, and exercising our empathic muscles, but in the end, it is well worth the effort. Leslie
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