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How to survive well (04/04/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Code “blue-hoo!” A comforting shoulder to cry on needed ASAP! Individual is suffering withdrawal from lack of positive energy! Nursing home TLC no longer effective. Family members desperately needed at bedside of distraught, elderly man.

Accepting our lot in life is not something to make fun of. One time or another you have to face it - you and your body are together for the long haul.

As I visited regularly, stood by, and offered all the support I could, I often felt helpless during those final years and months, as I witnessed firsthand elderly family members struggling with serious health issues.

The first and biggest hurdle one has to surpass is “acceptance.” It’s about coming to the realization that there are things you will no longer be capable of doing. It’s a matter of understanding the illness you’re inflicted with and your consequent limitations.

It’s even more difficult, and more than a little heartbreaking, for an otherwise proud, independent, and self-sufficient individual to accept the helplessness and frustration that go along with an aging and diseased body and/or mind.

On the other hand, one should not be expected to accept a doctor’s flippant dismissal, “Oh, it’s just old age. You’ll have to live with it.” Even if that becomes the logical conclusion, after the reasonable exams and tests are administered, the patient needs time, understanding, and support in order to absorb and make the best of the inevitable. Getting a second medical opinion might bring about a more comfortable acceptance.

As each new dawn presents challenges, keeping a positive attitude can be draining. Yet, every stumbling block one faces head-on makes one stronger and more determined not to give into discouragement. Make the best of what you are capable of, without bitterness and self-pity for what you have lost. Let it go! Constant complaining and unreasonable demands should not be confused with asking others for support and assistance. Caregivers, family, and friends want to know what they can do to lighten your load and to best serve your needs.

Those who don’t seem to get beyond “I can’t” or “Why me?” are putting themselves through unnecessary grief and frustration. Thinking positive turns into inner strength that can guide a person to a state of well-being that cannot be achieved through self-pity and withdrawal. Be an “upper” and not a “downer” for others – and yourself. Your spirits will soar! My meek, soft-spoken Aunt Alma never made a show of reading her Moravian devotional daily. I now recall that, down through the years, she’d quote a Bible verse or a pearl of wisdom at opportune times, tactfully guiding her nieces and nephews along the righteous path without preaching or put-downs.

So often, I bring her words to mind. I think of things I want to talk to her about. I recall her sweet and witty nature. I miss her deeply. I cherish my Moravian upbringing, out at that former Bethany Moravian Church in the country...the harmonious singing of hymns, the ice cream socials, and the aura of humility and fellowship.

Yet, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the religious affiliation of choice that must somehow be credited for the moralistic way someone lives his or her life. It’s the individual and his or her relationship with the Lord; it’s sincerity and devotion to the beliefs they advocate and embrace.

I believe that a person like Aunt Alma is what Christianity is all about. Often, during her final months, as her health deteriorated, and while those of us who bided time with her had tears in our eyes, she would cheerfully remark, “Such is life.”

Easter is a day of togetherness and rejoicing! Tell someone special in your life how much he or she means to you. God’s TLC to all my readers.

Janet Burns has resided in Lewiston all of her life so far. She can be reached at

patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.

 

 

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