I have realized, as I age, that what life does is teach you about loss, early and often. You will learn this lesson whether you like it or not. Life offers no peaceful ends, no graceful goodbyes, and if you dare to love you will have your heart utterly decimated.
But for the friendships, the family, and the love, well, this decimation and inevitable pain is just the cost you pay.
The older you live the harder life will be.
Let us all be so lucky as to have friends and loved ones that can take our hands as we stretch into our later years. Let us all be so loved as to not be forgotten and abandoned and left to die alone.
There is a loneliness to certain hospital wards that is unshakeable and it spreads like a stain to rehab facilities and to homes for the elderly. As the body begins to betray the person and the mind starts to fog too many find themselves surrounded by strangers, many who care, but too many who don’t. This is another patient, another name filed into the Temporary file as they are transient in your life. They may heal, they may worse, and some may die, but they are not permanent.
It’s interesting that we fear death so much, and understandably so, because it is so unknown, but aging we believe we can do gracefully. We hope can do it gracefully. Trusting that our bodies will not fail us, will not betray us, will not be poisoned by a life lead too well or too poorly. Trusting that when we reach the place where the Next Phase begins that we will not have to go alone, and if we do that we will be guided by caring hands and soft voices. We trust that if we can no longer care for ourselves that there will be money left to care for us and that there will be places for us to be cared for at.
Reality is a horror though because while death is a darkened veil, aging is a land of thick fog full of hazards.
It has become shameful the way we have allowed our elderly to become burdens they have never wanted to become. We strip them of their rights. We push them and pull them to and fro, we roll our eyes because many cannot adapt to the fast-moving modern world and many refuse to adapt. We take their aid funding. We allow care facilities to abuse them. We abandon them when they need us the most.
And none of this is to say that it’s easy to care for our elderly.
The financial, physical, and emotional toll on the family and loved ones is great.
It isn’t easy watching people you love decline.
But we can never abandon them.
We can never make them feel like burdens.
They are sailing towards uncharted waters where no guides can help them.
Their moans of pain, confusion, and loneliness echo deep into our hearts and chase us into our dreams.
We can do better.
For a nation that was once the standard bearer for progress in so many ways, our treatment of one another has become beyond regressive. We are so bent on doing for ourselves and ‘gettin’ ours’ that we forget that we are all connected and that without that connection to our past, to our elderly, we lose ourselves. We need to realize that we have to take care of one another. Our future, our children, and our past, our parents and loved ones, are what made us and what keeps us going.
I won’t apologize for the elderly that cling to the past, to regressive ideas and hateful hearts, but we must care for all of them because that is what humanity is about. That is what our culture claims to be about but we spend far too much time pushing one another down and not lifting one another up.
The insurance systems are broken.
The care systems are damaged.
The hospitals are health factories.
We are robbing people of money and aid they earned in the name of profit, war, and kickback.
But what can we do?
What can I do?
Keep holding their hands.
Keep reminding them that they are alive, they matter, and they are not forgotten.
They are not abandoned.