Honoring Aging Parents
My parents had been married over nine years when they finally got news they’d given up hope of ever receiving—my mother was pregnant. By this point, they were accustomed to whispered comments and speculation about their childlessness. But a few months after their tenth anniversary, my mother celebrated her first Mother’s Day with three-week-old me in her arms. The three of us had a special bond, and when my father died, my connection to Mama deepened.
Our roles gradually reversed. At times, I resented the feeling of being torn between her needs and my responsibilities to my own family. I wanted her to be the same capable person she’d always been without my involvement, often assuming she could handle financial, business, and health decisions, when, in fact, she was ignoring them.
Then, one day, in a quiet time of reflection, the Lord reminded me of my mother’s love and care for me over the years. She’d helped me and my husband in so many ways and taken care of our children. She lavished us all with kindness and acts of service, not for praise or reward, but because of her deep love for us. In that moment, I realized now was my opportunity to honor and care for her. I stopped fighting the role reversal and embraced it.
Little Things Mean a Lot
The power of touch – Aging parents, especially those who have lost a spouse, long for physical touch. I got into the habit of pecking Mama on the forehead when I left her. One day she announced, “I want a full body hug!” It took some effort to get her up from her chair, but we managed and she got the embrace she wanted.
The importance of nostalgia – Many times we’re in a rush when we interact with aging parents. While our lives are hectic, their days often stretch out in a succession of silent hours. Give your parent the opportunity to reminisce, even if you’ve heard multiple repetitions of the stories. Look through family photos with parents and make notes. The day will come when you are thankful you took time to document their history, which is also yours.
The gift of humor – Never discount the power of humor to lighten spirits and ease tensions. Proverbs 17:22 reminds us a joyful heart is good medicine. Mama celebrated a birthday while in the hospital. Her gift from us was a round neck pillow. The next morning, she said, “Please hand me my horse collar. It got away from me during the night.” Momentarily confused, I spotted the neck pillow at the foot of her bed. I held up the horse collar and we both laughed until we cried. Look for nuggets of humor even in the most difficult times.
Although the last years of my mother’s life were difficult physically and emotionally, I treasure memories of afternoons spent with her, allowing her to point out items in her house that were wedding gifts (and name the givers), digging through drawers in search of enough hidden money to pay an insurance premium, phone conversations, even trips to the doctor followed by lunch at a favorite restaurant.
In her final days, although she often didn’t know me, an occasional cherished lucid comment like, “You have a pretty foot,” “God has blessed us,” “You’ve never been a moment’s trouble,” reminded me that God gives us glimpses of joy and hope even in the most difficult seasons of life.
Candy Arrington is coauthor of When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and Aftershock (B & H Publishing Group). Her writing provides insights and practical support, often on tough topics. A native South Carolinian, Candy gains writing inspiration from music, scripture, long walks, historic architecture, and vintage photographs. www.CandyArrington.com