Four years ago this blog was hacked and locked down. I am so grateful that a very talented computer expert was not only able to unlock my site but was able to preserve my posts. The good news is that re-reading them after this amount of time has recommitted me to continue to share my personal thoughts on aging in a world that does not honor the process or the aged. I have come to these conclusions through my own experiences as well as observations. I admire individuals who are able to express their fears and phobias and fully face them. The fear of decline and death is very subtle and resides inside all of us. We are comfortable in our own skin and who wants to watch it turn into crepe paper and wrinkle up. Philosophers like Heni Nouwen postulated that people don’t want to face their own inevitability of death and so they avert their eyes from the elderly and focus on something else. I am further down the road than most of you and believe me, it has become more difficult to avert my eyes and my focus. I am more fortunate than some to have added on all of these years and yet how many is enough? As you age, your body keeps reminding you as if mirrors aren’t enough. Nouwen encourages us (me) to make friends with the aging stranger inside of me. That is easier said than done. To do so I would have to admit that she and I are the same age! I have aged four years since I last posted on this blog and yet, it is like it was yesterday. This blog is my way of facing my inevitability and sharing my thoughts with the aging stranger inside of me. I am graced that I believe that there is more beyond this life but the mystery surrounding the transfer from one to the next is fodder for another posting. It is great to be back, four years is a long time.
Henri asks: “What does caring mean when we think of the many people for whom growing old has become a way to the darkness. What is there to say to men and women who feel forgotten and lonely, and who are approaching death as the only way to escape their misery?” He admits there are no easy answers and points out to us that : “The painful suffering of many old people which makes their aging a way to the darkness cannot be understood by pointing to their mistakes, weaknesses or sins. By doing so we might avoid the realization that the fate of many old people reflects an evil that is the evil of a society in which love has been overruled by power, and generosity by competition.” Henri’s conclusion is that we must see our own “greedy faces” in those who have been rejected by their society. “In the honest and painful recognition of human rejection God’s acceptance can be affirmed.” I love Henri Nouwen’s explanation that even the victories of one’s life do not matter as the end approaches. I am paraphrasing, but he states is that what is needed is someone to reach out and understand with compassion and a listening ear and affirm that: “I know–you had only one life to live and it cannot be lived again, but I am here with you and I care…God’s acceptance can be felt through the gentle touch of the one who cares and allows the miserable stranger(our own fear and denial) into his own home.” Do you have any thoughts as we reach the conclusions of Henri Nouwen’s ,”Aging”? Have you had the privilege of bringing your own fears into the light? Do you find yourself identifying with and connecting to someone who is obviously reaching the end of their life’s journey? We need to know!
After dealing with “caring as the way to the self”, Henri ponders “caring as the way to the other”. According to Henri, “caring can lead to a new self-understanding, but this self-understanding can never be its own goal”. Instead, “we are called to put our aging self at the service of the aging other. The challenge of the care for the elderly is that we are called to make our own aging self the main instrument of our healing.” Henri goes on to assert that “caring for the elderly is not a special type of care.” This is a lot to digest. It almost seems like a riddle but let me try to work through this in my own experience since my current position is is designed to work with the elderly. According to Henri, “as soon as we start thinking about care for the aging as specialization, we are falling into the trap of societal segregation which care is precisely trying to overcome. When we allow our world to be divided into young, middle-aged, and old people, each calling for a specialized approach, then we are taking the real care out of caring, since the development and growth of men and women take place, first of all, by creative interaction among the generations.” The bottom line of this premise is that we ourselves in the aging network are helping perpetuate the “ageism” which we are fighting against! Henri believes that , “grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren–make up the whole of our life cycle visible and tangible to us at every moment of our lives…Therefore, caring for the aged asks for a life style in which the generations are brought into contact with each other in a creative and recreative way.” It makes sense and this happened naturally in past generations. The challenge is to recreate this environment where it doesn’t necessarily exist by creating programs to connect all of the generations. Do you know of any “best practices” that exist in your community to bring together the generations?
This space is dedicated to sharing the Good News with one another as we journey Home.