Living With An Elderly Mom
WHEN I was younger, I never give much thought that my parents would grow old one day. That they won’t be able to do things they love doing. Things that we the younger ones often taken for granted. I guess having lived apart for so long it was easy for me to be complacent and ignorant.
Even when my late dad suffered a stroke in 1998, I was aware of his condition and the tolls it had on my mother and brother Azim as they’re the only ones who shouldered the responsibility. However, again, living away in the city was giving me the buffer zone from witnessing the sweats, exasperation and challenges faced by Azim and mom. I was that ignorant fool.
Even after my dad passed away nine years later in 2006, I still didn’t feel the full impact of having aging parent. But of course, I know that my widowed mom is getting old but I have Azim and his wife there to take care of my mom’s well being.
That is until I moved back to live with her 24/7 for the past one year. It opens my eyes and mind on things that I didn’t even notice or taken for granted before.
But it was then. Now that I live with her I realised that she is not young anymore. At 84, as healthy as she is at her age, mom is prone to stumble and fall. She worries a lot. And she is super sensitive and very fragile emotionally.
Caring an aging parent is no mean feat as it presents difficult challenges. And one of the most emotionally complex and difficult things a person can experience is taking care of an elderly parent.
After watching Azim navigates rough patches often, my baby brother have my utmost respect for his perseverance in facing several on-going challenges while caring for mom which include siblings insanity.
Kid you not! Expect the worst from your sibling(s). For perfectly understandable reasons, many people go completely bonkers when their parents gets old. Money, childhood mementos, furniture, old grudges and possessions from the family house, money, diversified assets, money, the will… you get the idea.
Honestly, I really don’t know how he’s doing for the past 17 years. Having a family of his own, putting away his personal/childhood dream. Sacrificing everything, I mean everything, so he could devote himself caring for my dad then, and now, my mom.
I am not trying to make him looks like a saint but what he has been doing and is still doing for the past 17 years is beyond admiration. And yet, none of us the siblings did thank him enough for all his tears and sacrifices, so that we, the older siblings, have peaceful and undisturbed lifestyle wherever we are.
Hate to admit that I am not as patient as he is. But Azim keeps reminding me how to treat mom from Islamic point of view. On why we must try to treat her with utmost respect, love and kindness.
To quote Aliah Schleiffer who wrote in her book, “Motherhood in Islam”:
“When parents reach the period of old age, this is the time which offers the Muslim the greatest opportunity to fulfill one’s obligations to them, and thus hope to gain Allah’s pleasure. Muslims are counseled to keep in mind the fact that their elderly parents were devoted to them when they were in need of care as a child, while at the same time, to remember that they are parents, not children, with all the rights and privileges due to them as such.”
It has been narrated many times that a mother has a very high status in Islam. A man came to Prophet Muhammad and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said, “Then who?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said again, “Then who?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” Then he asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said, “Your father.” (Al-Bukhari)
In today’s busy life, while juggling many different things simultaneously, we tend to get caught up with the stress and demands of our daily struggles to make a living. But then again, in our endless busy cycle, do we remember when we were weak, helpless and needy, incapable of doing things for ourselves? Who took care of us? Who stayed awake at night for our sake? Who struggled to provide food, clothing and shelter for us while we were growing up? Who supports us with their prayers? Our parents served us unconditionally when we were small and weak… How will we treat them when they become old and weak?
“Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents and the believers on the Day of Reckoning” (Quran. 14:41)
“My Lord! Arouse me to be thankful for Thy favor wherewith Thou hast favoured me and my parents.” (Quran. 71:28)
However, it is was disheartening to read on the news how many Malay Muslim parents are being abandoned by their children in the recent times.
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.
God has said:
“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.’” (Quran 17:23-24).
And as for myself, as much as I love mom, I am still learning to curb my rebellious way when she is concerned and try my best to watch my mouth and treat her with extra kindness, love and compassion and honestly, it isn’t easy… A