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The Reality of Your Parents’ Mortality

One of the harshest realities of getting older is the fact that everyone is getting older too, including your parents.

I’m not even 30 yet, and I’ve already had a number of friends lose a parent or be faced with the challenge of standing by and taking care of a parent who is seriously ill.

A good friend traveled to see his father in the hospital recently and while he was there, it seemed his father improved. Unfortunately, his father has gotten worse since he left town and he told me simply, “What it comes down to is he’s dying and the most important thing is to keep him comfortable.” He said the family will have to now start looking at hospice options and prepare to say goodbye.

My friend is trying to take it all in stride, while being a rock to his siblings.  I told him if he needed anything to please let me know, but I’m sure there is nothing I can do or say to give him enough comfort in such a difficult moment.

Sometimes my father tries to talk to me about his concerns after he is gone and I really can’t stand it. It makes me uncomfortable, it scares the crap out of me. I’d hate to think that my superman will ever leave me. Aside from Jesus, he’s the only man who has NEVER let me down. I’d hate to think that someday my mom won’t be able to make me hot tea so perfectly when I come home or feel her hugs. Who else will tell me bluntly, when I’m just not on point as I should be?

As our parents age, and as illness comes, the tables start to turn. We become protective of them, we admonish them to take better care of themselves, some of us even go as far as physically dragging them to the doctor ourselves. Maybe these actions are our desperate attempt to possibly outwit the inevitable, but we do whatever it takes to keep them here forever.  No matter how grown we are, our parents keep us grounded, our parents make us feel safe and they give us their strength and wisdom. When we stop being stubborn and difficult, we accept those gifts and we cherish them. They remind us to be better people. They take pride in our successes and they build us back up when we fail. Even in the face of old age and or illness, our parents continue to prepare us throughout our lives, for our lives. If we are blessed to have them in our adulthood, they are working even harder to prepare us for our lives without them.

When we lose them, there is a pain that can’t be described, I am told. Those scars remain, and I notice that on holidays, birthdays and special occasions, while my friends who have lost their parents do their best to carry on, there is a private part of them that is solemn. You may catch them quickly in a special thought or memory looking out with a faraway gaze. When I notice it, I dare not disturb it. It is fleeting and they’ll usually sneak back into the groove unnoticed. Even for my parents, while my grandparents may have been gone for decades, I know there are times they really miss them still and wish they were around to guide them or share a moment.

My sister often jokes that when she goes to visit our aunt’s grave, she imagines our Aunt Mae telling her, “Girl, stop looking at this piece of stone in the ground. Don’t stay too long, because you have to go out and live your life.”

For some reason, I think our lost loved ones do believe that wherever they are. It is more than alright to remember (it is our duty), but we must not linger too long, because we must live the lives they wanted for us and to live them well, filled with happiness, because one day, all too soon, we too will be gone.

Side note: I don’t want anyone to take this blog too literally to apply to biological parents. Whoever was a parental figure to you, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, adoptive parents, this is for everyone. 

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