|Woven portrait of my mother by Youn Woo Chaa|
Taking Real Care of Our Elders
Yesterday, while talking with a dear friend, he expressed his heart’s desire of making sure that his parents were okay.
He talked about their physical well-being and the need to check on them regularly, assuring that they have not had any injuries, are eating well and getting the sleep they need.
I told him that I was proud of him but taking care of his physically able mother and father who were both in their 80’s, but thier "real" care required a great deal more.
“When is the last time you asked them for their advice?” I said. He was silent and I could feel his discomfort.
Then I told him about my mother’s journals. I found them 6 months after she passed away. During the last 5 years of her life, unbeknownst to me, my mother had been writing these life letters which all began with "Dear Bertice."
In them held wisdom that has been one of my greatest inheritances.
Among other things, like stories from her childhood, she wrote about the need to not feel like a burden. My mother took care of herself and helped me to take care of my children; she was 87 when she passed away. She had been sick and in a great deal of pain, but she had a great deal of dignity and never showed it.
My mother had worked all of her life. She took care of her own money and needs and raised 7 children on her own. When she said she didn’t want to be a burden, she meant financially. There was very little that I could say that would have assured her that this could never be the case.
There was one simple thing that I could do; I constantly asked for my mother’s advice.
This was not lip service, or an attempt to make her feel wanted. Our elders have wisdom that we can never pay for. Additionally, they sit closer to the end than to the beginning and have a spiritual insight that spans decades.
My mother's journals were filled with the details of the answers to my constant questions and the work she did to research and find her answers. She also wrote that it made her feel useful and wanted.
We are being foolish when we don’t count on what the elders know.
· Don’t talk around them or about them in their presence; speak to them.
· Ask about their youth and learn what they were too busy to tell you when you were young.
· Include them in any conversation about their well-being, but also about your own.
· Ask them to shop with you and watch how much money you save.
· While many elders do not use OUR technology, they have their own---tap into that wisdom.
· If you don’t have elders in your life, you are incomplete; borrow some---the nursing homes are filled with brilliant folks waiting to be asked for help.
Elders are not children who need our care, they are the elders and we need their wisdom.
Be you, be well, become wise.
Bertice Berry, PhD.