Monday, May 02, 2011

Mother's Day Reflections : The fear of loneliness

Allaying the fear of loneliness

As we celebrate Mother’s day so elaborately maybe we should pause to reflect on a very common problem that all our elderly mothers are experiencing in their lives at some time or another – loneliness. It may seem trivial to us who are busy coping with the challenges in life but a major cause of depression and sadness for them in the twilight of their lives.

Lately I had the opportunity to befriend an elderly lady in her seventies who has been inflicted with cancer. She stays with her children and grandchildren who take good care of her. They give her all she needs and take her wherever she wants to go.

There is always someone in the house and she is hardly left alone. I was surprised that she told me despite having so many members staying with her she is still lonely. She feels today the younger people are so busy working or studying that they have little time for elderly parents like her. They are there all around her but none free to spend time talking and listening to her.

She says the computer in the biggest enemy of elderly people like her as the children are always busy with it that they forget the presence of elderly people in the house who are yearning for their company. Not only they have no time but they also do not have the patience to sit with her to listen to her long-winded stories which are not relevant to their lives.

Reflecting on what the elderly lady told me I began to realise that she is not alone in complaining of loneliness. There thousands perhaps millions of such who experience such loneliness in the twilight of their lives. It is ironical these elderly people feel lonely even in the presence of a crowd of loved ones surrounding them.

Many of us parents who are still working and not that very old would begin to realise that our children spend less and less time with us than they used when they were younger. They have their own problems to cope with leaving little time to spend with us. As we reach our sixties a fear besets upon us as we are unable to many things that we used to do before. We depend on the spouse but he/she may not be around anymore. We look for the children but they are always too busy with their work and we do not want to disturb them. We realise loneliness slowly creeping into our lives and is going to do more intense with the passage of time.

Loneliness is one of the greatest fear of man which is prevalent at all ages. A child’s fear of loneliness is allayed by the loving embrace of its parents. During adulthood this fear is relieved by the company and reassurance of the spouse. When a spouse dies the surviving one will have no one except the children to allay his/her fear of extreme loneliness and uncertain future. In such a situation one will be lucky to have at least one concerned child on whom he/she can depend on.

This fear of loneliness becomes marked when one advances in age or becomes inflicted with serious illness. This is due to the added fear of the imminent death that is fast approaching. The fear of death may not be so much about them leaving the world but more so about the fears of what will happen to the children after they are gone.

On this Mother’s day it may be the right time for us to think of our own mothers who may similarly be lonely despite being surrounded by us and our children. We may be too busy and preoccupied with our own chores and problems that we may not be hearing her pleas for our company.

Our life is always incomplete without our mother as it truly revolves around her. Till a certain period in our life our day starts and ends with our mother. Remember the day when we packed our bags and was all set to start a new adventure in life, her eyes welled up. She knowingly hid those tears, as she wanted to see us fly away on our own wings even though it was as if she was tearing off a part of her heart.The many successes that we accomplish in the years that follow are mainly to her blessings and prayers.

Today our mother may be old and senile, sick and disabled. She may be all alone after the demise of our father on whom she depended all her life. She may be in their death bed waiting for a glimpse of us for the last time. She may be in an old folk’s home waiting for us to take her back to the place she used to call home, where she spent many memorable days with us. In whatever state she may be her fear is genuine and we must be remember she is there lonely and waiting for our company.

Mothers do not ask for expensive food, clothing or tours. They do not ask for luxurious houses or expensive gifts. All they ask for is a little of our time to listen and share some pleasant memories of the past with them. All they ask is to see our face, hear our voice and feel the touch of our hand or the warmth of our embrace.

Are these too much to expect from a person who was with us without fail in times of happiness, joy and above all in our misery, sorrow and pain? Are these too much to expect from the person who lived to serve us from the time we were born till her last breath? As the saying goes "Mother carries the child in her womb for nine months and in her heart for the rest of her life".

Happy Mother’s Day

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