I surely don’t wish to be morbid. I didn’t want my father to die, and now I don’t want my mother to die. Plus, I’m sure others are wiser about this joy topic than I. But attending two memorial services for two dear men in two months has given me pause. In both memorial services, joy was palpable. Not just joy that the men are now with Jesus—but also joy in having known them and in telling their stories. Perhaps the Lord will take me next, but if not … When the time comes for my mother’s or my husband’s or a sibling’s memorial service, I want the very best memories to bubble up when I share stories.
I think only two habits assure that what bubbles up ISN’T the time Bambi borrowed my ivory sweater without asking me and spilled mustard on it; the wedding anniversary dinner Fred blew off; or the gnawing suspicion that Mommie Dearest always liked Bambi best.
Habit number one is to walk in forgiveness—not sweep hurts and disappointments under the rug, but talk with God about them and if He prompts, talk with the person about them. Remember all Jesus has forgiven me for, and forgive others. “… love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Habit number two is to follow the golden rule of opinions. Think about others as you would have them think about you. I don’t much like it when someone assumes the worst about me. For example, that just because I haven’t finished a project yet, I’m obviously procrastinating or uncaring about a deadline; that if my coat is on the floor of the closet, I (what a slob) must have thrown it there; or that if I haven’t called, I don’t care. I would much rather people simply be excited about my project and if they must worry about its completion, approach me with compassion for any delays I might be facing; figure oh, dear, Jane’s coat must have slid off the hanger she put it on; or be confident I do care and will call. Wouldn’t you rather be given the benefit of the doubt and not judged? Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
In caregiving situations, emotions often run high. Your dad with dementia refuses to give up the car keys, and you are scared for his and others’ safety. You’re also frustrated about how to accomplish what you know is the right thing to do at this time. As you proceed with the plan and his car gets sold, your dad experiences grief and possibly shame. Then you feel so very sad for him and his loss of freedom. Misunderstandings are bound to show up somewhere in this emotional mix. You might consider him stubborn; he might think you’re mean. Accusatory words may be spoken. Both habits one and two, mentioned above, would be preferable in this situation. Maybe the car key story could end up being an endearing story related at your dad’s funeral. Maybe not. But at least you’d communicate love to your dad throughout this hard transition.
Caregivers of aging parents face so many emotionally charged situations. Sometimes with dementia, Parkinson’s, and other diseases comes clinical depression. As an older person loses control of bodily functions, he or she may sense despair or a loss of dignity. Adult children with lives of their own must take time to become educated about their parents’ challenges and available resources. Siblings acting from childhood scripts may unwittingly open old wounds and flounder adapting to teamwork in the new normal with Mom and/or Dad. Involved family members may be angry over decisions made by the person with health care power of attorney. If you’re caring for a loved one, you could probably add at least 97 examples of emotional situations you’ve encountered.
Thinking the best of others and forgiving hurts will go a long way toward
- smoothing out what is usually a fairly uneven, rocky path;
- truly making a loving connection with your aging parent;
- and maybe even ending up with more joyous stories to remember and honor Mom and Dad.