Our neighbor’s mom recently passed away. This was the last to die of the couple’s four parents. While I still have a step-mother-in-law, who is a wonderful MIL, grandma and friend, I remember the feeling when the last of our four parents had passed away and, specifically, when the second of my parents died. I remember the heavy realization that now we are the elder generation. We will be the next generation to die.
I had felt this somewhat after my mom’s death when I realized family gatherings were now my responsibility. I’d been an adult for years, but it was still disheartening to realize I now had to be the true adult in those situations; I could no longer attend as a child. It was now my job to coordinate, plan, and steer the events through to a pleasant ending for everyone.
At the same time I realized I was the elder, I also strongly felt the loss of my parents. No longer would I be someone’s child. No longer would there always be someone for me to turn to. No longer would someone wake up on my birthday, think first of me, and realize how special that day is. In reality I was now an orphan.
As I spoke with my neighbor’s wife and voiced these thoughts, she nodded her head in understanding. I don’t think this is an understanding we anticipate. I think this is an understanding that, sadly, comes to us with this enormous loss.
An orphan and an elder – I’d rather not be either.