My sister and her husband John have been providing my parents with the BEST of care since they helped them move up to Denver a few years ago. My sister knows her stuff when it comes to medical care of the elderly. She is a nationally known leader in the field!
But we received a unique and surprising lesson in compassion from my brother John this week. As we gathered around my Dad to help him transition from this life to who knows what is next, I felt honored to observe my brother show his soft and gentle side, rubbing my Dad’s useless legs while quietly thanking him for all that he has done for all of us. My Dad is pretty confused and, of course uncertain how to respond to this stage of his life. I watched my brother soothe him and make it all easier for him.
The person who comes to understand his parents, can forgive the world.
This brought up for me, the lessons we all may learn about compassion on deeper and deeper levels as we age. The ironies aren’t lost on me. I was raised in a fairly competitive and critical family. We knew we could always do better and never stopped striving for excellence. Unfortunately this way of seeing life includes quite a bit of comparison between ourselves and others. It also includes the belief that love and compassion must be earned. Therefore, my Dad could not fully comprehend all the human compassion he received when he first was moved to a nursing home. He kept saying,
“These people don’t even know me and yet they are so good and kind to me!”
In my thirties I started learning more about compassion from a wonderful therapist I saw for four or five years. Her beliefs included a hint of Buddhist and Asian influence. Then I received an education in transpersonal counseling psychology at the Naropa Institute in Boulder in the 1990s. All of this training taught me that compassion definitely starts at home. Self-compassion and personal generosity is your shortest path to being able to offer love and compassion to others.
I still struggle with comparing myself to others. I have to tell myself over and over again that we are all on schedule on our spiritual journey. We are all gloriously different in our paths. I have also had to learn to practice more generosity with my love, compliments and support, switching away from the shortage mentality I was raised with.
Now I find, we are all enough. We are all walking each other home...
Postscript: My father passed away peacefully the afternoon of March 10th. I saw him in our marvelous sunset last night, and hope to always see him there...