I’ll try to be coherent and sensible with this entry. This has been the hardest to write so far, as I am filled with “negative” emotions. “Negative” yet still beautiful emotions.
My mom has been celebrating her birthday in her adopted institution, a home for the aged, for the last six years. Whenever possible, we also celebrate Christmas with the elderly. I always go with her–nothing special to me though, just a call of duty–but our recent visit gave me a different perspective on life. Or rather, on death.
Only now I have realized that hardly do we see the same faces whenever we go there. People die. The home usually holds a three-day wake to give time for the dead’s family and relatives to pay their last respect. All the time, as in, ALWAYS nobody comes. Nobody grieves for the dead except for the home’s caretakers.
“They die alone?!” Mom exclaimed. I knew it was more out of fear rather than of disgust. It think it is the elderly’s fear to be alone, much less, to die alone. And yes, I sleep in my mom’s room every night.
Of course, I was so tempted to tell mom “See, even those with families can spend their remaining days alone and die alone.” Well, mom also fears that when I, being single, grow old, nobody will take care of me. I don’t know what life, or death, has in store for me but I would rather die alone for the simple reason that I am single than that my family has abandoned me.
The home is a place not only for the poor. I used to imagine that people who live there are beggars, with no family to take care of them in their old age (and I don’t know where I got that idea!). But no! The old people there have families, rich families, for some. The priest candidly explained, “their families are so busy working that taking care of them has become very inconvenient already.” So it was a convenient choice for them to walk out on their parents…something that their parents could have done to them when they, as babies, cried endlessly at night.
Walking out on someone or something can be the most convenient choice. Oh yeah, just how many times did I consider walking out of the shala when teacher insisted that I do dropbacks several times? I didn’t know what kept me from doing so–yes, I fell, I almost cried, but I never walked out–but whatever it is, I hope it will keep me also from walking out on mom.
During our conversation with the priest-in-charge of the home, my mom and her friends, whose ages range from 67 to 83, could not help but react strongly to the stories. “They will grow old someday and only then will they understand us.” “Ungrateful.” “They are rich, they have the resources, so why can’t they care for their parents?”