“I don’t want to be a burden to others when I get older. I don’t want to live that long.”
Nothing shocking there. Who does? Not wanting to be a burden to others is a perfectly honorable and practical statement for us to make. I make the above statement all the time. I’ve heard you make it, too. The problem is, it goes completely against what I believe about the value of human life. My life. Your life.
When you were born someone had to carry you everywhere, feed you, clean you, keep you safe. And they adored you. (And if they didn’t, they should have because you were adorable.)
And then you grew and grew and people had to take you places and fix meals for you, and take your homework to school when you forgot it, and take you for check-ups, and care for you when you were sick.
And you grew and grew and got a job, and maybe had children, and had to care for them. And at times you needed help with this because you can only be in one place at one time.
And all the while you needed emotional support for all the ups and downs that come with life.
And then you start caring for – or maybe just noticing – the elderly people in your life and-
EUREKA! So that’s why you’re having these thoughts now! You are seeing what it looks like, and you don’t want others to have to care for you, and so you boldly proclaim, “I don’t want to be a burden to others when I get older. I’d rather be dead.”
And that’s because you have forgotten that you have always been a burden.
And by burden I mean someone who needs support. We all need others to drop what they are doing at times and help us. We need them to schedule our needs into their day. Rejoice in this! People need people.
The difference is, as an infant, you had a delicious amount of ignorance. You didn’t feel shame about being cared for. You demanded it. But it’s different when you are an adult. You have pride and long for privacy. And even if the elderly people you care for have dementia and are not aware of any indignity, YOU are aware of the indignity and it makes you uncomfortable. I feel this. I honestly don’t want my kids to have to change my diapers. The thought horrifies me.
But here is something for us to consider. When someone takes care of you, it makes them a better person. Caring for the elderly is part of the life/love cycle we are all born into. There is dignity in accepting the care others must give us. We are saying, “People are worth caring for. I am worth caring for.”
And this is what I believe about humanity. We are worth it. You are worth it.
And you are also adorable, in case you haven’t heard it lately.