You wouldn’t think a loving family would torture their own mother but people do it all the time. And they’re not bad people in the slightest. But there are certain things that egos cannot see. And if someone is living in ego—which the vast majority of people are the vast majority of the time—then these things are inevitable.
There are countless examples of this and there’s undoubtedly times where in my efforts to care for my aging parents my passions lead me to unintentional disrespect them. A friend from another city recently told me of classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
We start with an elderly but very fit woman who is the most positive and supportive and optimistic person my friend has ever met. Always happy, always discussing what she was grateful for—she was even positive about the impending loss of her eyesight. She was always talking about how fortunate her life has always been.
In possession of considerable wisdom and in anticipation of her impending blindness, the very positive woman moved into an appropriate care facility and downsized to her most precious possessions but little else. When her sight did finally go her family’s reaction was understandably fear. Before that she could sort of half-see her way around, but now they were worried she would fall. When they visited all they saw was sharp edges on every table and pointy things, and potential tripping hazards everywhere. And so despite her heartfelt pleas they removed all of her things and replaced them with things they had judged to be better for her.
Of course they had no idea what it was like to go blind. But this is an experienced, well-adjusted woman. There was little reason to suspect she’d approach blindness blindly. She had moved herself into the facility, she found it herself and she did all of her own packing. She had a sharp mind and she had known her new apartment for 18 months. She was comfortable finding her way around in it blind just as you’re okay wandering your house in the dark. You know where stuff is. Because she was blind didn’t mean she suddenly had dementia.
She told friends about the incredible sense of violation she experienced as a result of having her entire home and her most precious things all stolen away from her in a single day. All to be replaced by strange things to which she had no connection at all. It was one of the most painful experiences of her life. And remember, all of this is being done by her genuinely loving family who believe they are doing the best for her. Do you see how the world works? Why we can’t get rid of evil? Because it’s not evil or bad or wrong. It’s an action and a consequence and in this case the intention is not at all ending up where intended.
Feeling profoundly betrayed by her children and isolated in a strange dark place, she slipped into very negative thought habits and before long she was miserable and deeply depressed. She felt as though she had lost her family right before death. I bawled my eyes out when my friend told me that the lady had fallen down a set of stairs and struck her head. She’s in a coma. The prognosis is not good. It is a tragedy of epic proportions and all made of entirely loving and arguably logical decisions that went terribly awry.
We want to care for those older than us. We want to make sure they’re safe and secure and doing things that are good for them. But we cannot become their parents. We can’t start ordering them around or making decisions for them if they’re not mentally debilitated. We have to calm down and remember that after as much living as our parents have done they actually know a thing or two about most or all of what might work for them.
That family was just trying to keep their mother safe. Their intentions were good and it was possible to make sense of their decision. The only thing missing was the blessing of the person at the centre of it all. So respect all people. Don’t listen with an agenda. Listen with an open heart. You might not hear what you expect to hear, but what you do hear might lead you to both different conclusions and different behaviour. And that applies to everyone, not just our parents.
Now go be yourself and have a great day.
Love you all.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.