Article Series

My Torn Heart

Article submitted by Joy C. Davidson, End of Life Coach, Pastor, Author, Speaker

From time to time I watch videos of organizations that rescue animals, primarily dogs, that have been abused or neglected and then perhaps abandoned as well. My heart is torn every time because I feel their pain. I feel the confusion as they sit there wondering why they are not being fed, why their owners beat them and yell at them, or why their owners left and never came back.

There is something else that tears my heart. My heart is torn when I hear about our older adults that are neglected – perhaps they are neglected in their own home by their caregivers or perhaps they are in a community and no one comes to visit. They may even be abused! However, it is no less of a travesty if they are treated as if they have no value, nothing to contribute as they age because they are no longer “productive”.

When my mother had her stroke in 2010, I learned something important. I learned that I am a caregiver through and through. When someone hurts – be they human or animal – I hurt; I am unable to not care. I also learned that this is the definition of a pastor. A pastor, in the most basic sense, is a caregiver – caring for the spiritual needs of those people in their congregation.

I write articles and books, I post on social media, and I give presentations. Why? As a pastor, the members of my congregation are those without a voice - the overlooked, the neglected, and the abused, especially our elders (our older adults). In his book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older, the late Zalman Schachter-Shalomi talks about the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the status of elders in our society. Early in the book Reb Zalman, as he was affectionately called, states that our elders were historically viewed as sages and seers, leaders and judges, guardians of traditions, and instructors of the young. As the impact of the Industrial Revolution grew with its emphasis on technical knowledge that was often beyond the knowledge of the elders, they lost their esteemed place and fell into what we have considered for the last few decades to be the normal state of “age-ing”.

I have a presentation on Spirituality and Age-ing that I give to college classes. In my facilitated discussion of this subject, I contrast the historical view of elders with the view we have now of age-ing as a time of waning vigor, lowered esteem, and social uselessness. I then ask them which society do they want to live in, or more importantly, which society do they want to grow old in? Invariably, they say they want to grow old in a society with a view comparable to the historical view of our elders. I end by challenging them to live that society right now, no matter what their age is. In effect, I challenge them to be the change that they want to see.

My torn, pastor’s heart drives me to challenge our current societal view – with every article, every post, and every book - I want my voice to be a catalyst for change in the world. With my ability to communicate, I commit to challenging the status quo so that my elders are valued for the valuable human beings they are. I challenge myself and you to slow down so we can hear the instruction they offer or to learn about the traditions that they guard.

My passion was birthed in my caregiving journey. As I walked with my mother on her Dementia Journey, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in “Alzheimer’s World” (as Bob DeMarco of Alzheimer’s Reading Room calls the world of the memory impaired). I too use to think Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that robs people of memory and of who they are. However, I realized that while it is still a difficult disease as is Cancer, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis, or any other difficult disease, it is FAR more important to focus on the person that is still there rather than what has been lost. The focus on what has been lost leads to depression and can cause the person that is still there to be missed or to lose value in our eyes.

My mother taught me what an incredible privilege it is when someone we love places their life in our hands in the event the day comes when they can no longer care for or make decisions for themselves. In my time in Alzheimer’s World, I also met Nick. By the time I met him, he was completely physically dependent on others for everything – food, transportation, basic physical needs – yet, I fell in love. Up until a few days before his death, one could touch his arm, say his name, and be rewarded with a big, beautiful smile. His wife told me he had always had that smile. Yes indeed, Nick was the one that drove home the point that no matter the changes he had suffered, he as a valuable human being was still there. My Uncle Frank suffered a physically devastating stroke five months before my mother’s stroke. Since the day he suffered the stroke, he has fought a valiant, uphill battle utilizing faith, therapy, and medication to regain every single ounce of physical ability (his left side was paralyzed) it was possible to regain. I do not think there is a single member of my family that has not been inspired and strengthened by his determination. Yet, our society would dismiss him. Is that dismissal valid? My torn heart says no and I will value him and walk alongside him until the day he joins his beloved God in heaven.

More about Joy Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC

Founded in 2011, Joy C. Davidson and Joyful Transitions, LLC, are a voice of experience working with older adults and their families as they face changes, seek late in life purpose, and search for the resources and confidence to live a powerful life. Our support is available through speaking and educational presentations and curriculum.

© 2016, All Rights Reserved by Joy C, Davidson, Joyful Transitions, LLC

Posted February 2016 on