I heard an NPR episode the other day about aging adults in America – those over 65. The episode explored what happens when their children or grandchildren realize they cannot live by themselves anymore. The story was very apropos – my paternal grandparents are in this exact situation. We (my mother, really) finally got them to accept the fact that they could not live by themselves anymore without full time help. They said they were ready to move to an assisted living situation.
This is a pretty huge decision and it has been a few years getting to this point. I encouraged them to move into a senior living community 2 or 3 years ago. At the time, they were interested and toured a few places near me. However, they would not let me join them on the tours or allow me to talk to the marketing person at the communities. They wouldn’t let me drive them, though they did not know the area well and were not used to the type of traffic or highways/bypasses around here. The trip was a disaster. My grandfather (who should not have been driving) got into an accident, luckily a very minor one. They were unnerved and upset, and as a result hated everything that had to do with the trip, including the senior living community. I felt guilty and sad. Why couldn’t I help them? Why wouldn’t they let me? If my father was alive, he would have driven them around. I’m the only relative that lives near them (still 1.5 hours away) and I was willing to help – to do what my dad would have done. William offered good advice at that time, just let them do what they want to do – it is their life, their home, their choices.
But, my mother realized this month, after some hospitalizations, that they should not live on their own – and they agreed. They’ve asked me to took at a few places nearby again. I hope I can find what they are looking for – a place they will enjoy and be comfortable in for the last years of their life. I feel better about being able to help.
Then, all the thinking about those last-years-of-your-life decisions, made me think about death. We are all in a beautiful, sometimes tragic, dance toward death. But, we rarely talk about it. We do not make it part of our daily living, because it is sad and scary. I read a great article about death by Caitlin Doughty (I cannot find the article on-line, though, but it was terrific). She challenges us to look at death differently, and I really identified with that – to acknowledge death and meet it with grace and dignity. Maybe because I was acquainted with death at a young age, I don’t mind talking about it as much as some. William does not like talking about death, but I always felt we needed to, if just to know what the other wanted at their funeral or what to do with their remains. We don’t know when or how we will die, but to be prepared mentally, spiritually, and practically, is a good thing. We should try to make it easier on those left to grieve. We should try to know what our spouse or our parents (or grandparents) want in or after death. But, it is so hard – those conversations can be too difficult.
William and I took years to make a will, even though we knew we really needed to have one. But, discussing and answering those questions, like what happens to our children or our home, was hard and we didn’t even want to consider the possibility. We finally did it, though (and made a living will). Even when we are thinking and talking about it, death is still scary and sad. My hope and faith helps and the knowledge that the world continues on, that we are all part of the cycle, is awe-inspiring.
Whew, that was a serious post! I’ll lighten up with some fun and beautiful things very soon!