Senior Living: Who are you taking for granted?


Saturday morning at Rosedale Cemetery, my family gathered with many “old-timer” Manchester folks to pay our last respects to our beloved Christy Parsons Corley.

As I pointed out the various corners where many of our loved ones and family are buried, I recalled when my grandfather (Leo Chane) told me he knew more people at Rosedale than downtown. That seemed crazy. Now, I get it.

The names on the stones seem so cold, so impersonal. But as we stood together after the service, the floodgate of stories and memories opened. We were together for one unifying reason: we all had a role in her life, and she in ours. We loved her and are deep in the mire of missing her now.

How engaged are we with those we love, particularly our seniors?

If we are hesitant, why is that? Is there a history that is difficult to get past? Has there been a family rift that continues to live on? Are we uncomfortable with the physical and mental changes that have happened over time? Are we afraid of a time commitment since we are already burning the candle at both ends? Maybe we don’t know what to say or how to be.

There are family members buried at Rosedale that I wish I had given more time to. As a young woman pulled in many directions, I thought I had “limited time.” That is hilarious now, as I had no children, no real responsibilities, and no real worries except those of a 20-something in the early 1980s. It could have been the changes so visible to me that were frightening and intimidating.

Over the last 40 years, in my work with those at the end of life or with serious illness, I met many people who found the visitation of loved ones’ excruciating. “I want to remember them as they were.” But, in truth, none of us are stagnant. None of us remain “as we were.”  We never thought that our bodies or minds would change significantly, our abilities would decline, or our energy would become limited. And yet, here we are, experiencing all of that and more. But aren’t we still, in many ways, “the same?”

An old dog isn’t a puppy.

It doesn’t leap and squeal and chase its tail. It’s big, maybe deaf, and likely slow. It’s the same dog, just add the years. But isn’t that what makes them so precious? The dynamic is different, but we don’t say, “I want to remember the dog as he was.” We love him to the end. And beyond.

Consider this… what or whom are we perhaps taking for granted? And maybe the bigger question: why? I will assume that many of us, maybe most of us, are interested and motivated to squeeze as much out of this life experience as possible. So, for me, and perhaps you as well, the notion of NOT taking pretty much anything or anyone for granted is on my proverbial “to-do” list.

In my experience, there is “collateral beauty” available in the saddest of times.

Our family, gathered from all corners of the country, had several days of a wonderful and fruitful reunion. We are renewed in our “clan connection.” I am renewed in my commitment to take as little for granted as humanly possible. Having done work on this already, I know that once I take this on, the ocean is more beautiful, the birds more amazing, my pets more outstanding, and my relationships are well worth the energy they require.

We want to be full participants in life, not bystanders.

It is not that intact boundaries and careful selection of where our energies go aren’t essential. To get all the good stuff will invariably mean we have to tolerate the flip side of the “life coin.” Know what is precious and tend to it with diligence. Take as little for granted as possible, appreciate what is all around you, and cherish what is yours as long as it is. We won’t regret it.

leo chane, rosedale cemetery, christy parsons corley, manchester, saturday morning