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ONCE AN ADULT, TWICE A CHILD: HONORING OUR SENIORS



Posted: 07/19/05

Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
By Rev. Stephen Holley

 

In a correspondence that began 14 years before their same-day July 4, 1826 passing, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both commented on the aging process that would ultimately bring these revolutionary mortals to their end. 

 

Said Jefferson in 1814, “…our machines have now been running for 70 or 80 years and we must expect that, worn as they are, here a pivot, there a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring will be giving way, and however we may tinker with them for a while, all will at length surcease in motion.” 

 

John Adams, in his response to Jefferson expressed his own personal concerns with the process that closes the curtain of life:  “I am sometimes afraid that my ‘machine’ will not surcease motion soon enough; for I dread nothing so much as ‘dying at the top.”

 

While these two Goliaths of Independence continued their exchange of letters for a dozen years beyond this brief glimpse of personal trepidation, they clearly expressed the anxiety that occurs for those who have entered that golden stage of life where looking back is far more exciting than looking ahead.

 

Probably the hardest thing that I have had to witness is the progressive mental deterioration of my 80 year old father who, for the past 6 years, has suffered with Alzheimers.  It has been a painful experience to see this once vibrant individual withdraw into the diminished world of daily survival. 

 

Gone are the self-sacrifical activities of helping others and ministering to their needs.  Gone are the deep conversations and opportunities to hear his wisdom that was forged in a strong faith in God that helped him in surviving the Great Depression, World War II, and Communism and the Cold War.

 

Everything in his “hard drive” has been shaken from its appropriate of storage.  His mind is like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle scattered on a card table crying out for someone, anyone to come and put the pieces back together.  It has been especially difficult for my mother.  She has borne a burden that I doubt she was prepared for.  At the age of 80, she not only has to care for herself, but she has to care for her husband, who has become like a child – having to be told when and where to go, when and what to wear and eat, when to take his medications, and when to go to bed – and she does this everyday.  Beyond her daily burden of caring for him is her unspoken fear that if she passes from this life ahead of him, she leaves a heavy responsibility to her children.  I have tried to reassure her that regardless of what the future holds, my sister and I are ready to assist beyond what we currently perform; but it still bothers her.

 

Admittedly, this situation is not as bad as it could be.  Some who suffer with Alzheimers can become difficult, angry, hard to appease, and so unpleasant in their interaction with others that close relatives and friends prefer to avoid the conflict.  Thus far, Dad is the same kind and gentle man that I have always known and loved.  But, we are not na´ve to think that things could at some future point in time worsen.  The world of Alzheimers and its progressively diminishing intellectual darkness has no rules, no boundaries, and no limitations.  It can worsen almost instantaneously, and for no apparent reason.  Two years ago, an elderly man in California confused his accelerator for his brake pedal.  The horrible end result:  10 people who were enjoying a sunny day at a farmer’s market are now dead, their families having been plunged into the pit of grief; while one confused old man cannot completely understand the disastrous consequences brought on by his confusion.

 

When it comes to caring for my dad, we realize that we can bring small bursts of joy to brighten his day.  We can gather his grandchildren around him and watch as his life becomes more animated while they are with him.  We can participate in simple conversations – asking him questions to which we already know the answers; and eagerly responding to the repetitive questions that he has asked of us, often within the same conversation.

 

I guess I need to keep in mind that God is using this trial to teach me to trust Him…lean on Him…and allow my faith to be proven and tested as the “enduring faith” talked about in the first chapter of the Epistle of James.  As that is being accomplished in my life, I can also do for my father what he did for his family for over 50 years – and that’s “just love ‘em be there!”  Perhaps my presence will encourage him, calm him, and bring some small measure of sense of order to his persistent confusion.  God knows – he deserves it.  He never let me down when I depended on him.  So…now it’s my turn. 

 

I guess my prayer in all of this is that as I minister and tend to the needs of my parents, and especially my father, that God would be glorified, that I would learn in a deeper way the joy in serving those who are suffering, and that my children will see and model what I show them.  Someday, I will enter that stage of life that Adams and Jefferson feared.  Someday, I may need strong arms to lean on.  Truthfully, like Adams, I too have some fear of ‘dying at the top;’ but, as the hymn writer so eloquently wrote “whatever my lot, he has taught me to say it is well…it is well with my soul.”

 

Distributed by www.worldviewweekend.com

By Steve Holley

Email: [email protected]

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READER FEEDBACK


Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 08/15/06 05:47:07 PM Age 83, FL
Indeed, a fine tribute to your father, Steve, and a poignant reminder that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Your Dad and I were the closest of friends for many years. My dear wife, who passed away before she was 50, was your Mom's first cousin, and she took care of you as a toddler. I'm well acquainted with the illnesses that affect the mind, because my present wife, who suffers both psychosis and dementia, has been a nursing home patient for over two years. I see the devastation of this tragic illness almost daily as I visit and talk to Alzheimer patients, never being sure if they will smile and shake my hand, or draw back to strike me. But, almost without exception, they express great appreciation when I tell them I pray for them daily, and let Christians know that, "...our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). Suffering is a biblical given for every true believer, (Phil. 1:29), and how we handle it shows the world the reality of our Christian character and the strength of our commitment to Christ. This is especially true of those who care for the mentally ill. Most patients who suffer with dementia have little or no understanding of the emotional pain and loneliness experienced by their caregivers. They cannot process the information hidden in the tears they see, and the endless streams of secret tears are only seen and understood by our loving Heavenly Father who won't let a single tear be wasted. My heart goes out to your family, Steve, and especially to your Mom & Dad. Do let them know that I have added them to my special prayer list. Unworthy, but His... Roy Cave



Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 08/15/06 05:34:17 PM Age 83, FL
Indeed, a fine tribute to your father, Steve, and a poignant reminder that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Your Dad and I were the closest of friends for many years. My dear wife, who passed away before she was 50, was your Mom's first cousin, and she took care of you as a toddler. I'm well acquainted with the illnesses that affect the mind, because my present wife, who suffers both psychosis and dementia, has been a nursing home patient for over two years. I see the devastation of this tragic illness almost daily as I visit and talk to Alzheimer patients, never being sure if they will smile and shake my hand, or draw back to strike me. But, almost without exception, they express great appreciation when I tell them I pray for them daily, and let Christians know that, "...our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). Suffering is a biblical given for every true believer, (Phil. 1:29), and how we handle it shows the world the reality of our Christian character and the strength of our commitment to Christ. This is especially true of those who care for the mentally ill. Most patients who suffer with dementia have little or no understanding of the emotional pain and loneliness experienced by their caregivers. They cannot process the information hidden in the tears they see, and the endless streams of secret tears are only seen and understood by our loving Heavenly Father who won't let a single tear be wasted. My heart goes out to your family, Steve, and especially to your Mom & Dad. Do let them know that I have added them to my special prayer list. Unworthy, but His... Roy Cave

Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 08/18/05 12:08:01 PM Age 62, AZ
Boy, did that article ring true! I have just exited a 12-year sojourn with my mother, and a 3-year journey with my husband. Both died in the last nine months. The thing that sustained me through everything was the nearness of Christ. Often the circumstances were so discouraging, but how good of God to let me sample a small portion of grief at a time; to process the losses little by little, so that when the homegoings occurred, there remained only gratitude for God's faithfulness. Sometimes I focus on my loss, but always He reminds me of my gain, and the hope of reunion in Heaven. The loss is not so unexpected or brutal, the hope for the future is lifting. Rosemary Mehan



Re: Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 08/15/05 10:26:40 AM Age 66, MO
I too, cared for my parents for 2 years prior to their death. My only regret is that I could not do more. It was a precious time with my parents. My too sisters and I worked well as a team. I was able to witness my parents renewal of faith and sincere prayers of repentance that would prepare the way for their joining our Heavenly father for eternity. Caring for our parents is an opportunity for blessing and personal growth that we should all experience.

Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/21/05 09:16:38 AM Age 45, KS
As a daughter of parents quickly becoming the age for decline I share your trepidation. I am glad to share that so far they are maintaining extremely good health and I attribute a lot of it to the diet that they eat and raised us on. In the age of aluminum pots and pans, seran wrap, cow's milk and twinkies, my parents insisted on an organic, whole foods approach. We were aloud to eat sugar only once a week and as such none of has cavities. My grandfather was a chiropractor back when that was thought to be mere quackery, and we were regularly adjusted and given massage therapy, as well as high quality vitamin supplements. Not did we avoid many of the illnesses that plagued out friends growing up, we have all been blessed with healthy metabolisms, and immune systems even in our middle age, and my parents old age. While I thought my parents were food Nazi's back then and that my whole past generational systems was a bit whacky, from the research I have done on my own as an adult, I have come to know that I was so very blessed to have their wisdom to protect my health. I have thanked them over and over again now that I understand it. We all hope to avoid these old age diseases and so far their plan has worked. If you are at all interested in protecting your generation or generations to come, I would sincerely and in much Christian love, encourage you to start doing some heavy research into the typical American diet and how we are the only nation to have such rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's. I CAN be avoided...we don't have too look forward to a horrible ill old age. With the proper care of the machine that God has given us and eating the way He designed us to, we CAN live long healthy enjoyable old ages! Here is a good starting place for health info with a Christian World View: www.tmdiet.com. May Yeshua be with you!



Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/20/05 03:13:30 PM Age 64, SC
Thank God for a caring son! Too many times we "deposit" our elders in nursing homes. As I approach this season in my life I am made aware this disease could stike me. Would my three children take me in, or would they too deposit me? Or would I totally disrupt their lives with this horrible plight? I have to place my fate in my Father, blindly trusting Him to see about my daily care. My total respect goes to this son for his honorable effort to give his father back the care he was afforded in his childhood.

Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/20/05 08:24:01 AM Age 64, KS
Excellent, please keep it up. I love it.



Re: Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/19/05 02:50:12 PM Age 68, OH
I can well appreciate the author's feelings about his father. My mother died at age 94 and 2 months, of Alzheimer's, just before Christmas in 2003. She had been widowed from my pastor father for over 17 years. We believe that he lived long enough to see it coming on, and he tried to make arrangements for her latter years. However, he was older than she, and went to be with the Lord in 1986 due to a series of strokes. I lived over a thousand miles away, and tried to see her twice a year; at home during the beginning; then in the nursing home. During the latter years, she never knew who we (including my brother and sister,) were; she did not remember who my dad was; and she could not follow even one sentence in a conversation. But when we prayed with her, she still bowed her head and spoke words of agreement. She was still able to honor the Lord.

Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/19/05 02:16:48 PM Age 47, AR
Altzheimers is a devistating disease, and one that is hard for all to deal with, even those of us that have trust in God. But through our hardships we learn compassion for others who go through similar circumstances. I am very blessed that God has been with me through the storms of my life, and I have had some very close to me that have developed this disease. Even though they seem to become an empty shell, deep down inside they are still the person we know in Soul, and Spirit. It is through my hard times that I remind you of the scripture. in Romans Chapter 8: verse 28: "And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." KJV And yes also "Whatever my lot thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.



Re: Once An Adult, Twice A Child: Honoring Our Seniors
Posted On: 07/19/05 12:17:34 PM Age 68, MO
Thanks for the reminder. I have a 95-year-old mother whom we had to put in a nursing home about 3 months ago. She does not have Alzheimers, but she is losing her short-term memory. I have to learn patience, as she will allow anyone to do everything for her, and I want her to keep some ability to do for herself.

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