Where does our responsibility begin and end? - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Where does our responsibility begin and end?

August 30th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Where does our responsibility begin and end?

By Rabbi Irwin Wiener
Guest Writer

You shall stand before those who are old and show respect for those who are old.

 Leviticus 19:32

One of the most daunting prospects in the human experience involves growing older and the feeling of abandonment. 

A large segment of the senior population gravitates to retirement communities that offer the comfort of sameness. There is a feeling of togetherness and the ability to commiserate with stories of ailments and reminisces of days long gone. There is the joy of visits from children and grandchildren. 

However, when the dust settles and the car has left the driveway, there is a feeling of loneliness accompanied by a feeling of despair. We open the door, enter our home, and find room after room filled with pictures of yesterday. Where has the time gone? Where there used to be laughter and tumult there are echoes of silence.

Then we suddenly cannot remember a name or an event and fright sets in. In a lucid moment, we realize that we are forgetting more than we remember. Our life flashes before us and with it the dreams of yesterday and perhaps the reality of today.

The most discouraging feeling gives us pause because we, for that short moment are feeling discarded. Some of us relocate to different environments that are more hospitable to our new disabilities.

 Our friends who once joined us in all kinds of activities are no longer within reach.  We sit lonely and quiet in thoughts of what was and will no longer be. 

We should not forget our neighbors, our friends, our families, and our history. We repeat the stories because to understand the present and look forward to the future, we need to remember how we got here. 

 We need to remember who brought us to this moment in time. even in sorrow, we acknowledge with gratitude the One who gave us the ability to survive regardless of the suffering we experience.

An essay I read, I believe, speaks to this most eloquently. The author is unknown.  

The Rain

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly man in his 80’s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb.  

I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.  On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.

The man told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife

He told me that she had been there for a while, and she was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late.  He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me. But I still know who she is.”

I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.”

If we have had friends that were part of us, then continue to keep them in our lives through visits and calls and letters and cards. Each of us is a member of our extended family.

We still need each other, and others surely need us.

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D., is spiritual leader of the Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation.