My father-in-law died this summer, just before he turned 82.  Lung cancer.  He left behind his wife of 60 years.  She’s really been struggling… lonely, lost. I’ve been trying to help her get things in order: giving his clothes to charity; changing accounts to her name only; notifying the IRS, SSA, BMV… blah, blah.  I foolishly thought that tying up all the loose ends would help her move on.

She finally broke down in tears the other day and told me that she felt like we were ‘pushing him away’… ‘erasing him’ from her life. On top of her sadness and grief, she was also feeling scared about the future.  She had spent the past 60-plus years with the love of her life… now what?

Getting old must be terrifying.  Especially when you’re alone.  Minor health issues can easily become major.  You don’t have the same physical, mental or emotional strength to cope… or to fight.  You worry about losing your hearing, sight, ability to walk, memory, money, friends… the list goes on.

Sadly, I lost my own mom when she was 50.  Also lung cancer.  She never got to experience grandkids or ‘getting old’.  And I never got to be there for her in her golden years.  But my sweet mother-in-law is still here.  And I’ve made a promise to myself to be more compassionate, patient and loving toward her… and all older people.  To listen more.  To ask about their lives and traditions… to get their advice. To treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

I want to set an example for my daughters… because someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be old enough to need their help.  Sorry girls, but I changed your diapers… soon it’ll be your turn!

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