It was a simple question. “So, how are things?” We had already been talking for quite a while and were getting ready to wrap up our conversation. But I felt a nudge and I asked. That was all it took. Only fifteen more minutes on the phone and in that short amount of time I was given a very realistic and painful picture of her reality. Overwhelming details. I listened. I made a few suggestions. I sympathized. But I couldn’t change a thing. Really. It was all too much. And when we finally ended our conversation I found that all the emotions and weight of the matter still lingered long after we had spoken.
The challenges so many families face as their loved ones grow older seems insurmountable. Pride, dignity and independence combined with decline are tough paths to negotiate. Our American culture of families being separated by miles pursuing lives of our own often leaves those we love isolated navigating important decisions without the support they need. It’s not that the support systems don’t exist rather it is that there comes a time in life where even disconnected families yearn for the presence of family. I’ve seen it often enough in the community where I work to know the truth of this reality. Family matters. And as hard, and awkward and tough as it may be the presence and engagement of children when aging parents are making tough decisions is profound. Somehow, in the end, I think the presence of adult children gives a sense of purpose and completeness to life. Even if it was a bumpy journey. Even if little seemed right. I’ve seen many an old soul yield to a child not out of a sense of one being right and one being wrong, but more out of a desire to love and be loved. And that’s what really matters in the end. Loving and being loved. That doesn’t make it any easier, but it does give a profound sense of purpose to the challenge and a goal – to love and be loved.