“There were so many things I wished I could have asked my mother, but I will never have the chance,” my mother told me on her 85th birthday. Her mother passed away unexpectedly when my Mom was a child, so she never had the chance to get to know her. With this in mind, Mom encouraged me to ask her any questions I may have. For a moment, I was speechless.
We spend so much of our development pushing away from our mothers. My own 20-year-old daughter has told me “Mom, you just don’t get it!” But, at what point do we get it?
If you have an aging family member (Mom, Dad, grandparent, Aunt or Uncle), I hope you’ll take time to ask them some questions. Here are some you could start with:
· What have you enjoyed about aging?
· What are the biggest challenges of growing old?
· What has surprised you the most in your years?
· What has brought you the most joy?
· What would you do differently?
· What words of advice do you have for my generation?
I asked my own mom some of these questions. Here are the beautiful highlights of what she shared:
“I’ve lost my husband, close friends and family members. I am scared of getting sick, not being able to drive and being alone. And I am afraid of dying, even more than of death itself. The tough stuff is real and staring you in the face.
But, there are many positives that I never would have anticipated. While I live alone, I have never felt less alone. My life is rich with friends and family. For the past few months, I’ve needed caregivers to tend to most of my personal needs. As a result, I am less self-conscious than I ever have been.
While I still experience my down times, I have also learned to simplify things and focus on silver linings. I am unencumbered by the day-to-day struggles of building a life, like choosing a career, finding the right guy or raising children. In some ways I am more content than I have ever been. I embrace the beauty of my life and accept its limitations. That is the secret of life that takes a lifetime to learn.”
As I listened to my mother, I know that her story is part of my story. All of our parents’ stories are part of our own lives’ narratives. No longer do I discount my mother’s perspective, but instead, try to learn from her ability to cope with adversity and come out triumphant. I hope that one day my daughter will realize that I do get it and that she has much to learn from her mother, as I have learned from mine.
And please, don’t forget to share what you’ve learned.