THE SANDWICH GENERATION
The second month of 2012 is already here and the same old questions about life and death confront us. Sandwich generationers are particularly vulnerable because their loved ones are very vulnerable. What to do? What not to do?
Every year, I get these questions from adult children caring for their frail and often very sick parent(s).
Sometimes these are unanswerable questions because every life and situation is different.
What is “answerable” is that the progression of that last journey IS shared by everyone in the family.
In a special series (see my website) , I had pointed out that, “overall we are a death denying culture, which is strongly supported by modern medicine. And while death and dying issues became high public profile in the early 1990s with Jack Kevorkian and others who believe in a “kinder” end of life for mankind, there is no public consensus. There are still no rules for individual decision making. And no one can give advice as to what a “good” decision is for someone else.”
What is answerable and clear -- to me at least -- is that” the "spirit" lives on -- sometimes reappearing to those of us still on earth and certainly in the hearts and minds of those left behind. The dynamism of life can never be forgotten, even with death.
One’s inner spirit of and for life keeps even the sickest "going." That inner spirit fuels feelings of youth (even if old age is really a reality) and love of life.
So what is answerable to the “what to do” question involves spirit.
While that positive inner spirit can only come from within, it needs to be nurtured from outside the person. Aging parents when they were young parents nurtured their children; so now these children have to prop up their parents’ spirits. It’s called role reversal, and spiritual empowerment is the center of sandwich generationers’ responsibilities.
Nurture a parent’s inner spirit and enable them to retain choices that make that last journey a little “better.” That last journey might even be years away. But it is important to realize that joy -- inner spirit and spirituality-- mean so much. Actually this inner spirit idea is applicable to everyone, regardless of age.
And also to everyone, regardless of age, “touch” nurtures one’s soul. Touching means as much to an elder as it does to a baby. A comforting touch validates life. So in this role reversal stage, sandwich generationers need to reach back to their actions with their own children and act accordingly with their parent(s).