The first “no” of the two year old is our initial claim to independence. From then on our parents, our first caregivers, become the touchstone, the ground on which we gradually launch from childhood, to adolescence, to the weighty responsibilities of adulthood. The foundations of independence that make possible our responsibilities for vocation, for family, and for children comprise some of the greatest achievements of adulthood. We are not simply given our independence or the freedoms that come with it; we earn every step, every inch through hard fought accomplishment, tenacity, patience, love, accountability, respect and trust. As we evolve as human beings we eventually hold the ground upon which others’ lives are launched and held as well: our children, our students, our co-workers, etc.
By the time we reach elderhood, we have often mastered the life which has been offered to us to cultivate. We have run businesses, we have owned and cared for homes, we have raised children into adulthood, we have been vital and respected members of our community. This is all to say, “Why would we so easily relinquish the independence we have striven a lifetime to establish?” Accordingly, why would we entrust our lives in the care of others who would not take into account the strength, the intelligence, the heart, and the dignity that exists in every cell of our being that reflects the life that we have created in order to become who we are at this moment? I often reflect deeply upon these questions whenever I see those in need, or those who I know could use a hand, or those facing the closing chapters of their lives who I know will need assistance with even the simplest tasks of everyday existence. Saying “Yes” to support is no easy matter for those who have responsibly held their personal ground with the dignity that comes from a life hard won. And trust- when it comes to handing our lives over to the support of others- must be earned with the respect and love that is necessary as others put their lives and well being in our hands.
The circle of life eventually comes back upon itself, and we hope that the love and care we were provided as children and that we subsequently provided our children awaits us. Yet, we are not children; we have lived a human life worthy of reverence and honoring for surviving and thriving though many seasons and trials of full adulthood. So when we say “Yes” we are giving our permission to place this life in another’s care so that blessings may be exchanged in this last important chapter. “Yes” is a conscious decision, a consent, a permission, and faith that you will treat me with the dignity I deserve and the understanding of the sacred ground of the life that I have grown and am now placing in your keeping.
Kenneth R. Lakritz, Ph.D.