Life comes full circle when you take care of your old parents during the sunset years of their life.
All your life, your parents have been a constant presence in your life. They have seen you grow and have raised you to become the person you are today. As you got busy with your own life, chasing your goals, and making a name for yourself, your parents were growing old too. They did everything so you could be independent and there will come a time when, inevitably, they become dependent on you. Life comes full circle when you take care of your old parents during the sunset years of their life as they ride off into the setting sun.
It can be an emotional experience if you get to do it yourself as some people would. This is the last chance to spend time with the people who brought you into the world. It is up to you to make sure that their last days are filled with love and happiness from their child. If you have siblings, there would be nothing that would bring your parents more joy than seeing all their children together. Even more so, you can learn from your parents and their life experience. Their age and limited days could bring a new perspective to your own life. Death is inevitable and losing a parent is never easy but it is something all of us have to go through.
Sher Bailey cared for her ailing mother and was there with her in her last moments. She has compiled the emotional journey that it was for the blog Kitchen Fun.
It is the circle of life in motion. Death has always seemed something distant and you would have never imagined your parent as someone needing to be taken care of. But the roles reverse and you find yourself cleaning after them, telling them to take their meds, and putting them to bed. They will become child-like the older they grow and you will get a glimpse of what it may have been like for them to care for you when you were a child.
All your life, your parent was your pillar of support. You went to them for advice and everything else in the world. Now, your parent may not be able to tell what day it is or where they are. They are confused in their old age as their physical and mental capacity deteriorates. They live in a world of their own and are detached from the current reality. It may be frustrating for them to see that we can't understand what they are trying to say. It may be hard for us to accept that this was the parent who once held our hand through the worst of times. But it is now up to you to be there for them, patiently agreeing with whatever they have to say.
Especially when it comes to an elderly person with an illness, death takes its time. If you think it is hard for you to see your parent's suffering, it is harder for them to go through it. Bailey said, "Dying is work, and Mother had a lot of work to do. I would see and hear her talking to people not meant for my eyes. And then she’d be present with me again, but only for brief interactions." You will have to see them through these tough times. But caring for someone who has seen you take your baby steps also reminds you that everything in the universe is a cycle, and that every stage is meant to be cherished.
Your parent may have once lifted you and your siblings together as you playfully wrestled with them. But now they may not even be able to pick up a cup to drink water by themselves. A lot of other bodily functions stop working like they are supposed to and you see your parent becoming "a vessel." Especially if they are ailing from sickness, it takes a heavy toll on them and you will see them reduced to a frail image of a person you used to know. They might also become more vulnerable emotionally. Even the strongest of them will have moments of weakness, and this can be hard for you to accept.
As you spend time with your parent and have time to reflect on the past, you may remember the fights or heated exchange of words from the past. You may feel like a jerk forever having made your parent feel anything but happy. They may have said things that hurt you as well. The fleeting moments of clarity your parent experiences are when you feel like airing these matters out and seeking forgiveness from them. You also want to let them know that you love them before it's too late.
Seeing the person who brought you into the world leave it will make you question your own limited time on Earth. You will, without doubt, think about how and when you will experience your own death. How you will have to get things in order, especially if you now have a family of your own. You may even end up praying for a swifter death that is painless and quiet. Or you may stress about the fleeting nature of life.
Taking care of a person who is in their last days is not easy. Physically, mentally, and emotionally it can be exhausting. Yet, many times, you neglected your own need for rest or nourishment. If you were juggling work, your family life, and your ailing parent, the burnout migh have hit you harder. You can always hire a caregiver but the emotional labor of dealing with a dying parent is just as bad. You will feel the constant urge to nap and you should whenever you get the time to conserve as much energy as you can.
Spending time in the same room as your parent even when neither of you has nothing to say is okay. You find comfort in the silence. Take this time to imprint your parent as they are now into your brain. Sure you can retain their healthier days as well but these are the moments you will never get back. You will also find yourself replaying your younger days with your parent in your head, happy you can reminisce as you spend some quiet time with them now.
You may think watching your parent deteriorate day-by-day would make the final blow easier. Nothing will soften the blow when they pass away. But you will have the satisfaction of knowing everything in your power to make their final days and transition into the afterlife as comfortable as you could. You will cry and mourn. Eventually, the pain will dull and you will find a way to move on with life while carrying them in your heart.
Bailey advises, "Your parents brought you into this life and so as they leave it, you will undergo a change that gets to the very core of who you are. Be attentive. Listen to their stories. Commit their words to heart." Pray that they get to rest in peace now.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Morsa Images