WE have to be ready for these eventualities. We grow old, have limitations and weaknesses. We commit mistakes. All these have effects on our body, and since our body is always linked to our soul, they too affect our soul, the way we think, judge, reason, understand, love, etc. They can affect our spiritual life, our faith, etc.
We all suffer these things one way or another, sooner or later. But in the meantime, letâ€™s learn how to take care of ourselves and of one another as we unavoidably approach these situations or go through them ourselves.
The need to learn the art of caring, at once physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, cannot be overemphasized. May we progress in this department, at least to pace with the rapid development we see around in the other dimensions and aspects of our lifeâ€”technological, social, professional, political, etc.
It should not be said that while we are making great strides in the area of work and professional prestige, financial and social status, etc., we still could be considered as primitive in this most basic aspect of human lifeâ€”the care we need when we suffer the unavoidable limitations of our nature.
This should be the concern of everyone, but especially those who are more educated, more endowed and more blessed with certain charisms. Letâ€™s see to it that we have the appropriate attitude and skills in place.
Some studies say that up to 15% of people over 65 and up to 40% of those over 80 suffer from some form of dementia (Alzheimer, multiple cerebral infarctions, Parkinsonâ€™s, etc.)
The symptoms are usually some degree of memory loss, impoverishment of language, difficulty in remembering the name of objects or in recalling words, inability to concentrate, temporal or spatial disorientation, agitation, or loss of capacity for judgment.
Thereâ€™s also some character, mood or behavioral changes and loss of interest in things that previously mattered a lot to a person, reduction in physical strength and general activity, increased fatigue, slowness and unsteadiness in walking, fear and risk of falling, lack of appetite, weight loss, depression, etc.
Itâ€™s important that we instill hope and empathize with these people who are undergoing these conditions and help them to understand that suffering has a meaning even if it is not fully understood. For this, the example of Christ, and before him, Job, should be highlighted.
We need to listen to them even when they seem to be talking nonsense. We have to encourage them to look at God and other people, since this is the path to discovering the meaning of suffering.
Only in that way can suffering be understood as a sacrifice, a tremendous gift, a redeeming trial or a clear proof of love. Letâ€™s remind ourselves that suffering can only be understood and appreciated when seen more under the light of faith than of reason and the sciences. And we should know how to convey this truth to those who suffer.
In the end, itâ€™s Christian love, the love that comes from God, which cures, or more properly said, ultimately resolves even our most difficult, if not humanly insoluble, predicaments. What St. Paul said about it is no exaggeration. â€œCharity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.â€ (1 Cor 13,7)
I was happy to learn recently that Einstein, one of our greatest scientists, wrote a letter to his daughter many years ago, which said that the greatest force on earth certainly does not come from matter nor from some natural source, but from love that comes from God.
This is a challenge to all of us when we have to deal with people, usually those close to us like our relatives and friends, who suffer some extreme forms of problems. Itâ€™s said that we can only give what we have. So, if our faith in the love of God is not that strong or is practically non-existent, then we cannot expect to convey the truth of Godâ€™s love for us to others, nor to our own selves.
In short, we will surely fail in dealing with problems related to old age or to difficult, if not incurable, illnesses. But since there is always hope even in our most trying situations, we know that we can do something about this.
Letâ€™s hope that we can find time to build up our love of God and of others by making an effort to pray, offer sacrifices, deepen our faith, develop virtues, and acquire those skills of compassion and empathy even as we avail of all medical help appropriate to the situation.