“Don’t worry so much, because in the end none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting; and if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky and the stars that are strung across the velvety night; and when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish…”-Robin Williams
Erik Erikson who is known as “the father of psychosocial development” believed that each of us passes through 8 stages of development in our lifetime. The last stage is “Integrity vs. Despair.” In this stage, the elderly look back over and reflect upon their journey through life’s even and rough pathways. A few of them come up to the surface with wisdom and wholeness while others lose themselves in regrets and despair and become fearful and pessimist. It is therefore important to show them the brighter side of the day.
Abhilasha, Anushree, and I were visiting the eldercare home where Kritagya Foundation serves. The sky was pouring as we entered the driveway. I saw an elderly woman sitting on the edge of the doorway. She was accompanied by an exasperated nurse. “You will catch a cold, just come inside and eat something.” She bawled at the old woman. I was cross and I walked up to the caregiver and asked her why was she so rude with the old lady.
The sister looked at me and retorted “She’s been here for over a decade now. She is 96 years old and she keeps waiting for her children to come by and take her home. Whenever she hears a car pull over she would limp towards the door and sit there for a long time looking out in despair. Her children never come to check on her or pick up our incessant calls.” I noticed her wrinkled and watery eyes searching for the thankless faces of her children. Abhilasha was furious while I was overwhelmed with emotions. Anushree knew exactly what is to be done in this situation. She went up to the woman and started a conversation.
We all sat down and she beamed at us. Anushree went on about the weather and surroundings and then gradually asked her about how her life has been? Her eyes were set on the overcast sky and she responded after a long pause. “I was born in Varanasi in a pious family and grew up with love. I have two children out of my marriage. My daughter is a school teacher and my son is a surgeon. I have many regrets in life. I feel I wasn’t a good mother to them.”
Anushree went on, “So your children are well-educated and successful, aren’t they?” The color of her eyes changed to a lighter tone and she was wreathed in smiles, “Yes I worked hard towards them. I woke up nights with them during exam time.” She spoke at length about the way she made them study and escorted them to different classes without getting tired. “What was the best thing that you loved to do?” I asked, She looked at me blushing a little and said, “I loved to sing the bhajan- ‘Achyutam Keshavam Krishna Damodaram’ to my children and lately to my grandchildren.” The song was redolent with many memories of her children, a tear escaped her eyes and Abhilasha took her hands in hers and said, “Would you sing it for us now?”
The moment was magical as she broke out into a song in her cracked and wobbly voice … we all hummed along with her… “Kaun kehta hai bhagwaan aate nahi, kaun kehta hai bhagwaan aate nahi, tum Meera ke jaise bulaate nahi” (Who says God does not come? You don’t call him with the devotion of Meera.)
We all had a smile and wet cheeks before we knew. Anushree fetched some tissues for all of us and the sister also seated herself beside us, gazing into the distance, lost perhaps in her own past.
We kept reinforcing the fact that she was an independent woman and needed nothing now to complete her. She’d done her duties well and now she belonged to herself. She can now live every moment of her life singing and making merry rather than waiting or regretting it. The brighter side of life has to be remembered and moving on is vital. She nodded and put her freckled hand on our heads and mumbled, “You all are angels” and our hearts expanded, bursting into millions of sparkling smiles. Shifting from despair to worthiness is important during this stage.
“Kaun kehta hai bhagwan sote nahi, kaun kehta bhagwaan sote nahi, maa Yashoda ke jaise sulaate nahi…” (Who says God does not sleep? You don’t make him sleep like how mother Yashoda did.) She was still humming the bhajan which was there on my lips too…
She walked inside with us gleefully and ate her breakfast on her own. As, we completed the song for her, “Kaun kehta hai bhagwaan khate nahi, kaun kehta hai bhagwaan khate nahi, ber Shabri ke jaise khilaate nahi...” (Who says God does not eat? You don’t feed him like how Shabari fed him.)and we all giggled together. Her smile melted all my beliefs about things that didn’t really matter.
The nurse thanked us. The moment was filled with gratitude for each other and we didn’t quite know who was doing a favor on whom.
Be an angel to someone who needs one. Get up and spread the message of love and friendship.
Kritagya Foundation is just a small voluntary group that loves to spend some time in elder care homes and orphanages and collect resources that are needed by them. For details, you may connect here.
Now we are not able to do much work as in this fast-paced world very few volunteers for offering their precious time for the grass-roots level work we believe in doing. Just sending money for charity isn’t enough I feel, being there for those who actually need you without any applause or certificate is the most onerous and yet most rewarding service in the world. Who knows that this may become your therapy in some way? Join our group on Facebook.
*Some parts of it originally published by me in 123greetings as an Alias of Editor Bob