I will start with a disclaimer; I intend not to break your heart, but to give you peace and hope. It's no secret, we are all getting old. As my dad would say, "if you don't get old you die." He spoke so many truths. In fact, I could probably write about "the elder truths." As I look at them now, all in their 70s; I see them so peacefully. Let me tell you; they are still every bit of spicy and unruly, but I just remember so much love when I was growing up. I remember them hanging the pinatas off of trees to give us fun games for Easter, buying us fancy outfits for our birthdays, making sure we cousins bonded and respected each other, and just genuinely making sure we had something to smile about.
This phase of life is different. No one told me the elders were going to get old and some of them would have memory loss or terrible pains. No one told me to prepare for this stage. I thought the elders would just get old and be fun forever, like "Golden Girls" or "Grumpy Old Men." It really hurts. Have you ever mourned someone while they are alive? Have you ever had a heart to heart with God about extending someone's time on Earth, because you can't fathom living without them? Have you ever kept every voicemail in your phone, because you wanted to hear that voice for the rest of your life. If you have, I apologize. However, we have arrived here and let's try to help the elders live the rest of their lives gracefully.
Lesson One: Celebrate Them.
Everyday they have left on this Earth should be appreciated. We all get it, you have a life. Remember, when they are gone, they are not coming back. Learn every recipe, learn about their lives, and most importantly learn what makes them happy.
Lesson Two: Make Time.
They made time for you when you were younger, and now it is your turn to return the favor. You may have or not have any idea of how many sacrifices they've made for you without expecting anything in return, but that's neither here nor there. They love you, and they are important. Make time for them.
Lesson Three: Listen to The Same Story Over and Over in Awe.
I legit can't tell you how many of the same stories I listened to during this Covid crisis helping my elders. All while they are talking, I'm thinking, "I just can't imagine them not being here. I love them so much." Remember, you were little once and they had to answer every question and sometimes repeat themselves. So, just get over it.
Lesson Four: Watch Them Age.
I cannot stress this step enough. Time goes by extremely fast, and before you realize it, they are no longer doing the things they use to do. Consider that, watch, and take notes of what you can help out with.
Lesson Five: Don't Put Anything Off.
We are getting to a critical age in life where important decisions will have to be made. Some elders forget. Make sure you take note of healthcare, home, trust/will information and anything that is extremely important. This is VERY important. You will need them to assign someone to control these documents in case anything comes up, and possibly have a secondary person in charge.
Lesson Six: Unless it is Killing Them, Let Them Have Their Way & Win the Argument.
I say this with love. Trust me, I've gotten into heated battles. My aunt literally called me, "a little heffa" in a heated argument. Although I was frustrated at the time, afterwards I couldn't do anything but laugh. I thought to myself, "I'm really glad she's here to call me little heffa." I'm still willing to move mountains for her no matter what. Don't harbor ill will or feelings towards your elders. Remember this is a difficult part of life for them. Things are not working like they use to, they are getting told what to do, and they are use to being in charge and in control. Take this into consideration; please, before you write them off.
Lesson Seven: Love on Them Always and All the Time.
We get it. You have a life. You don't have time. You don't want to bother them, or have them in your business. What about their life? How would you feel about someone making all of the sacrifices in their life to make you happy, and you disregarding them to "live your life." Death has no return, no warranty policy, no date. We don't know the last time they will be able to drive a car, give you advice or leave a simple voicemail. Always allow some room in your life to give back to your elders; they deserve it. It's a lot easier to get to them when you get to them or abandon them in a nursing home even; but why must life be so convenient and easy for you? Why can't we all be inconvenienced a little here and there. I hope to have shed a little light for your journey. I will leave you this poem I wrote for my darling father going through dementia (I love him so much so you can shed a tear here).
Will you remember these times that I’ve spent with you
Will you remember all the things I hope I’ve meant to you
Will you remember the tears I’ve cried and cried
Will you remember all of the hellos and not the goodbyes
Will you remember the nights I’ve stayed by your bedside
Will you remember these times I had to put my feelings aside
Will you remember that I am your only daughter, Janae.
I HOPE you remember....my love for you....I pray and pray.