Remembering our elders, reflecting on our lives

Remembering our elders, reflecting on our lives

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities, and brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency presents an educational column on an eldercare issue. This month’s column is presented by the Joint Chaplaincy Committee; the mission of the Joint Chaplaincy Committee is, “To provide quality, comprehensive and professional spiritual/pastoral care and chaplaincy to the frail and elderly within our community.”

I have never missed sitting next to my grandmother and holding her hand as we listen to the shofar. I am not sure that she can go to hear the shofar any more.”

“My father always made sure that he sent me a honey cake on the week before Rosh Hashana. He would say, ‘Have a sweet year, Honey!’ Now I cannot hear him speak; he is too weak.”

“I visited my mother today. She was so excited! She is starting an ‘open university’-type program in her home in the community. She has a syllabus and books. Her teachers are all well trained in their fields. Finally, she will have a formal degree in Jewish Studies. For me, she was always ‘my’ degree in Jewish studies. We are so happy for her!”

“As I think of the future and the decisions I and my brother will have to make which will impact on our mother’s life and on ours as well, the holidays seem too hard for me.”

The High Holy Days are a time of life review, for introspection and self-examination. We turn our thoughts toward who we are and what we are all about, where we have been, where we are and where we are going. We wonder about our future and what will befall us. With each passing year, the words of the Mahzor become ever more poignant. “Kihlot koheinu al ta’azveinu” — “Do not desert us as our strength wanes.” We, the community, answer, “We will not desert you!”

Whether at home or in senior residences, long-term or acute-care facilities, the Jewish community is committed to serving the elderly in ways that add quality and meaning to their lives.

Kihlot koheinu al ta’azveinu” — “Do not desert us when our strength wanes.” This, the prayer, written hundreds of years ago, is so appropriate today. How did they know then what we feel now? How could they express our own fears and trepidations in the 21st century? Because human nature is human nature. Styles change, language changes, geography changes, but those deep spiritual feelings remain the same. How astute of the sages of old to put into words how we feel!

Chaplains are on the scene, meeting the spiritual and communal needs of our aging population in a variety of ways. By offering individual visitation and pastoral counseling, religious services on Shabbat and holidays, group discussions and activities, we respond to older adults wherever they are in their life journeys. By being present with them, they experience that they are not alone and the Jewish community has not forgotten them. We provide them with a powerful way to express themselves, to be heard and to be reminded that even though their physical and mental powers may be declining, they still count in the eyes of the Jewish community.

Professionally trained and skilled chaplains walk with families and elders as spiritual care givers and guides, helping them find inspiration, fulfillment, and comfort in their daily lives. Far from being forgotten and feeling deserted, the elderly experience and know that we, the total community, are with them; they are not alone. We do not forget them. We value them. In answering the prayer that they are not deserted as their strength wanes, the Joint Chaplaincy Committee, in collaboration and partnership with all of the other agencies and organizations in our  MetroWest community, plays an essential role in making the New Year of 5772 a sweet and good year for all those it serves.

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