I have been reading a good deal of what people have said about ageing and two quotes resonate particularly strongly with me and I find myself come back to them over and over. Here they are:
Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.
( Sir Arthur Wing Pinero)
In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch enemy, sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
I suspect many of us know of elderly couples who have lived long and and fulfilling lives together ~ maybe 50 or 60 years ~ and then one dies, leaving the survivor with immense sadness and grief. The wonder often is how the surviving spouse holds on to life and doesn’t slip away from the shock and sheer upset of losing the person who has been so fundamental to his/her life.
This is a context in which I feel that grown-up children can have a major role to play. They are, by definition, a major link between their parents and while nobody will ever fill the place of the partner who has died, the grown-up child can be a person who helps to keep memories alive, can empathize with the sense of loss because they too are grieving for the loss of the parent. This is a time of heightened emotion for both the surviving parent and the grown-up child and is one in when many layers of life may be peeled back ~ with a sharing of tears, memories of happy times, and exchanges about times spent with the partner/parent who has passed.
The vacuum left by the passing of one elderly parent can be immense but it seems important never to underestimate human resilience, even in the face of illness and what Edith Wharton describes as the arch enemy, sorrow.
I see grown-up children as being crucial bridges in helping elderly parents, and especially those who have lost their lifelong partner, to adapt to change, retain intellectual curiosity, be interested in big things and be happy in small ways. This is a time for grown-up children to use their imaginations and navigational skills and find the necessary bridges to ensure that their parents can mazimize the quality of relating to what really inspires them. This is a time to think of all the senses ~ taste, touch, hearing, seeing, smelling.
The possibilities are endless and ‘quality of life’ is about loving, being loved and knowing that there is always hope of happiness and the sharing of precious moments.