Learning from the previous generation and facing mortality

My grandma is ready to die.

Or at least she says she is. She said she’s looking forward to meeting Jesus, being with her husband (my grandpa) who passed away a few years ago. She’s sure of her future. We’re just not so sure of ours without her here.

With four generations in my family right now, I have two generations I can look up to and learn from.

This is going to get sad really quickly so if you are looking for light-hearted and warm and fuzzy, you gotta read something else.

We’ve seen a lot of death and illness in the last year. I lost an uncle, my other grandma had some health issues and faced surgery of her own, (not that it at all compares) and our doggy lost his life because of lymphoma. Grief hangs heavy on the peripheral.

As my grandma was sick lately, I think I got my first taste of true grief as an adult. I know she’s lived a good life. I know she wants to be with her Savior in Heaven. But that makes my parents so sad. I remember when my grandpa died several years ago, it seemed like everyone around my was fumbling through grief, swimming through a thick sea of emotions and navigating a path uncharted. Clearly we know that people aren’t immortal, but we also don’t imagine what we’ll do and how we’ll survive without the fixtures in our lives.

Things pop up in my life and I think, “yikes, I’m not old enough to have to deal with that yet.” Or “who put the rookie in charge.” The fact of the matter is that I’m almost 38. 38! I’m not the rookie–even though I feel like I am.

My age and my grandma’s recent illness put into perspective for me that my parents are shouldering a lot of the responsibility of caring for aging parents.

Eventually, that will be me.

I’m not sure how I could even do that. I still require advice on what to if a light bulb base breaks off in the socket. I can’t make decisions about my parents medical needs and long-term care options. I need them to tell me what to do. I need their advice. I need to reflect on their experiences to help me process the decisions.

I’m not sure how I could even deal with my parents telling me that they are ready to die, even if I know they are better off in Heaven then this sinful, crazy world.

How would I deal with the grief? How would I swim through the mucky waters of life without them?

Then I think about my parents. Maybe they knew this day was coming–that they’d be caring for aging parents. My grandpa died more than 20 years ago, making my mom only slightly older than I am now. She didn’t ask for that–yet my parents were pillars and supportive to everyone who needed it. I suppose that torch gets passed from generation to generation whether you want it to, or not.

Here are some things I have picked up from them along the way.

  • Communicate with your siblings–They are in this too. It’s their family too. There is no reason that siblings can’t help keep each other in the loop. Believe it or not, people can’t read minds. It’s important to keep each other up to date on decisions and information. And do so respectfully.
  • Have the hard conversations–You have to know what your parents want. Sometimes that means having difficult conversations about topics you don’t necessarily want to discuss during a birthday party or holiday gathering. However it is important to get it all out there and make sure that everyone is aware of what the parents want. And see the above bullet point.
  • Patience is a virtue–When it comes to sick or aging parents, there will always be one step forward and two steps back. Don’t get discouraged. These things take time. If it’s an illness or an injury, the older person might not bounce back the same way they once have. Also bullet point 2 and 1.

Honestly, I can only hope to be as helpful to my parents in many, many, many years as they are to those who need them now. Sadly, they now have experience with doctors, nurses, hospitals, funeral homes and dealing with the fall out from a death. While I commend what they do, I certainly hope it’s a long time before I, too, have to face that.


One thought on “Learning from the previous generation and facing mortality

  1. I hope it’s a long time as well, but this is a good post and good job working through these issues.

    I’ll add a couple bullets: There’s no wrong way to grieve. There’s no wrong way to spend the end of life. Death is an inevitable part of life and it’s a blessing to be a positive part in someone’s end of life journey.

    Sending love!

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