By Karen O’Connor:
“Oh Karen,” my 82-year-old mother said, struggling to communicate during one of my visits, “I’m losing my words.” At that moment, I was without words myself. I put my arm around her and she melted into me, sobbing like a child. I realized then that finding God in my aging parents would be the only way I could help them. My father was slipping too and I couldn’t change the circumstances, but God would be with us through this season of life.
A few months later Mom suffered a stroke. Expressive aphasia was the clinical term for the loss of her ability to speak intelligibly. My family moved our parents to a nursing home near my sister, about ninety miles away from I lived at the time. As a result, I had to work a little harder at figuring out what I could do from this distance. It came to me that what they most needed from me were gifts of the spirit.
RESPECT: Being willing to look at my aging parents in the light of today. Infirmities exist. Bodies are frail. Minds are fragile. Emotions are often at a breaking point. Despite the conditions, they still have their dreams and disappointments, hopes, and longings. I wanted to remember that.
UNDERSTANDING: I can walk down the tunnel with them and confirm with understanding words what is obvious to my eyes. “This is a difficult time, isn’t it, Dad?” “Mom, I can only imagine how frustrating it is not to find the words you need.”
LOYALTY: This is the simple act of being faithful to a person, despite the circumstances—not always easy, but so necessary to aging parents.
COMFORT: One man comforts his aging mother by recreating a family tradition. Once a month he brings a brown bag supper of hamburgers and fries to the nursing home where his mother lives. “Whenever my dad was on the road for work when I was a child, Mom and I would go to Prince Castle for hamburgers. ‘Prince Castle nights,’ as she called them. This is as close as I can come to them now,” he said, holding up the brown bag from a local restaurant.
At times we may find ourselves feeling weary in our well doing, especially when we also have commitments to our own families and careers. The wisdom of Proverbs can shore us up as we find God in our aging parents.
“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old…May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!” (Prov. 23: 22 and 25)
You also may benefit from this informative YouTube video from Christian author and speaker Julie Ieron on caring for aging parents.
©Karen O’Connor. Karen is an author, writing mentor, and frequent contributor to the Finding God Daily blog. Visit Karen on the web at www.karenoconnor.com