We’d have a lot more to be thankful for if even a fraction as much attention were paid to what’s said “over the plate” as to what’s served on top of it. This traditional pre-church sermon prayer could help: “May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable…” And smile.
Again, I maintain there’d be far more to be thankful for if we just smiled. I dared to nod at the stony-faced stranger sitting next to me at a recent funeral. Although she looked startled, she not only nodded back, but smiled.
There might be more to be thankful for if more were said about the last years of an elder’s life—period—than that which is said at funerals and in obituaries. So little is said about what is often the most difficult time of our lives, and obituary photos usually show the departed at a much younger age—and smiling.
The Nov. 16 New York Times special obit about a former Times dance and art critic who left this life at age 87 showed a much younger man, and the story was about his successful career. As usual, little is said about the “retirement years,” often so stressful for males especially, or about his debilitating lung disease.
At the funeral, younger family members, sometimes through tears, but more often with laughter, recalled a mother, aunt and grandmother walking so briskly one could hardly keep up with her. Surely endearing were the recollections—all the birthdays and other shared celebrations, often in another city, where her family had moved. But I’ve come to believe we also need to know about “last years” and about the women who made them livable for the woman remembered and mourned. We need to hear how the departed’s long life and failing health does not lessen the loss felt most keenly by those who were so much a part of her life, especially her sister-in-law, with whom there were at least lengthy weekly get-togethers. And the women who took care of both elder women, they too feel so very bereft.
The elder womens’ doctors often said how very fortunate they were to have such “quality caregivers.” Infinitely more should be said on a public level why this is considered so “very fortunate.”
Let’s say infinitely more about the myriad and concurrent disorders, mental and physical, that often occur in later years, especially in an age-segregated society obsessed with the physical and looking young. Only then will the most dread failure of the mind get the research and treatment it deserves, and socially acceptable jokes on “losing it,” heard even on Oprah and The View, are seen as a hurtful kind of hate talk.
Incidentally, only the departed’s sister-in-law needed a wheelchair, and I was the only one at the funeral needing a cane. How often this happens, and at functions like civic groups’, where the citizenry airs grievances. How to overcome them? You get the message.
And faith groups, of which I am a staunch advocate, also overlook the need some have in just getting to services. But it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m so thankful for these groups’ existence. I hope many note the example of St. Stephen of Hungary, which is holding its first Thanksgiving dinner for those in the congregation and community who may be alone on this very “inclusive” national holiday. Although they may not be used, I bought two $5 tickets (affordable!) because I so believe in faith groups concerned with the “family-less”/”family-poor”—and not only on holidays.
And dear readers, I am most thankful for you, and this paper—all print newspapers. Let’s really support them—and small neighborhood businesses. Forget Costco! We’ll have more to smile about if we do.
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