Looking Back On Your Life- What Do You See Integrity or Despair?

Erik Erikson who is known as “the father of psychosocial development” believed that each of us pass through 8 stages of development in our lifetime. The last stage is “Integrity vs. Despair.” In this stage the elderly look back over and reflect upon their journey through life’s even and rough pathways. A few of them come up to the surface with wisdom and wholeness while others lose themselves in despair and become fearful and pessimist. It is therefore important to show them the brighter side of the day.

Adrian, Fred and I were visiting the elder care home where Fred serves. The sky was pouring as we entered the driveway. I saw a senior woman sitting on the edge of the doorway. She was accompanied by an exasperated nurse. “You will catch a cold, just come inside and eat something.” She yelped at the old woman. I was cross and I walked up to the caregiver and asked her why she was speaking with such impoliteness with the old lady.

The sister looked at me and said “She’s been here for over a decade now. She is 96 years old and she keeps waiting for her children to come by and take her home. Whenever she hears a car pull over she would limp towards the door and sit there for a long time looking out in despair. Her children never come to check on her or pick up our incessant calls.” I noticed her wrinkled and watery eyes searching for the thankless faces of her children. Adrian was furious while I was overwhelmed with emotions. Fred knew exactly what is to be done in this situation. He went up to the woman and started a conversation.

We all sat down and she beamed at us. Fred started with small talk about the weather and surroundings and then gradually asked her about how her life has been? Her eyes were set on the overcast sky and she responded after a long pause. “I was born in Connecticut in a pious family and grew up with love. I have two children out of the wedlock. My daughter is a school teacher and my son is a surgeon. I have many regrets in life. I feel I wasn’t a good mother to them.”

Fred went on, “So your children are well-educated and successful, aren’t they?” The color of her eyes changed to a lighter tone and she was wreathed in smiles, “yes I worked hard towards them. I woke up nights with them during their grades.” She spoke at length about the way she made them study and drove them to different classes without getting tired. “What was the best thing that you loved to do?” asked Fred, “Oh! I loved to sing the carol- ‘Angels from the realms of glory’ to my children and lately to my grandchildren.” A tear escaped her eyes and Adrian took her hands in his and said, “Would you sing it for us now?”

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The moment was magical as she broke out into a song … we all hummed along with her… “Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear, suddenly the Lord, descending, In His temple shall appear: Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!”

Fred kept reinforcing the fact that she was an independent woman and needed nothing now to complete her. She was wise and whole and she can now live every moment of her life singing and making merry rather than turning over the dark pages of her life. The brighter side of life has to be remembered and moving on is vital. She nodded and put her freckled hand on his head and mumbled, “Angel!” and our hearts expanded, bursting into millions of sparkling smiles.

She walked inside with us gleefully and ate her breakfast on her own. The nurse thanked us. The moment was such that we were all filled with gratitude for each other and didn’t quite know who was doing a favor on whom.

Be an angel to someone who needs one. Get up and spread the message of love and friendship.

Love & Joy,
Editor Bob

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