Thursday, January 12, 2006

Human Frailty - Part One

Human frailty. We see it everywhere, yet most of the time, our eyes are closed to it because it is just too difficult to bear. We are afraid of our own frailness, our own feebleness - whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

My own frailty was brought vividly to my attention over the past few weeks. I was struggling with an infection and a painful medical condition which landed me in bed for days on end. I had been able to get around some, but it was painful to walk, and I would get exhausted quite easily.

This was the first time I had ever got a taste of what it must feel like to be OLD. And it's a scary feeling. It's like my body was turned against me and was no longer able to function properly. It was upsetting and frustrating, and I would get irritable and angry quickly. But what frightened me the most is the dependency one others which I had to learn - and I didn't like it one bit.

I was at a store a couple of weeks ago (when I was feeling better for a brief period of time), and I witnessed a son being verbally abusive to his elderly father. I overheard the first conversation in the entranceway of the store, and the way in which the son was speaking to his father sent chills up my spine. Later, when I was leaving the store, the son was helping the father into a car, and he kept on yelling at his dad. The one phrase he kept on saying to his dad in both places was "This just isn't worth it, man - it's just not worth it". I am sure his dad was taking that to me "YOU'RE just not worth it, man", and the look on his face was one of such sadness and pain.

For the first time ever in my life, I was able to fully put myself in the elderly man's shoes. He was just so physically frail. It is such a frightening feeling to actually feel frail. Words can't begin to describe it until you experience it. The hopelessness of thinking to yourself that you are always going to be frail from now on. The loss of respect that you get from not only strangers but from other people (including sometimes family members) begins to become noticeable in the way in which you are treated. The dependency you have on others to help you do things that once you were able to do without a second thought. All of this physical frailty can then lead you into emotional frailty, and it is at that point which you become most vulnerable. For then, the people around you begin to talk to you as though you are an object rather than a person with feelings - much like that son was talking to his father - and a lot of time, you don't want to say anything to the other person out of fear, because you are so dependent on that person for your care.

I wanted to rush up to that son and just ask him, gently, if there was anything I could do to help him. But, I didn't. I wondered if, when he was a little boy, his father was impatient with him and said "this just isn't worth it, boy". All I know is that the scenes I witnessed were so disturbing to me. And I pray that I never experience the kind of extreme disdain that was displayed from one human being to another as I did on that day.

In a way, I am grateful that I was recently been sick enough to get a "taste" of what physical frailty is all about. It makes me appreciate my strength and energy as I have slowly recuperated. It also makes me realize, once again, the impact that the spoken word can have on another; and how RESPECT for others needs to be taught to our kids when they are very young, or they will never respect us.

I've touched on the emotional and physical aspects of frailty in this post, and I plan to devote my next post on spiritual frailty.


At 11:53 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Words are daggers, aren't they, and they can cut more deeply than any steel blade.

At 2:44 AM, Blogger Barbara said...


I have been reading, and if you could have seen me on webcam or something, I am sure that I have been nodding in agreement with the points you make.

I see the dignity and respect that Roger gives his parents and my heart is humbled by his love and patience - and, all too often, I see incidents so like you describe and my heart weeps. Yes, I know the frustration and the difficulties concerned but to me, that is still no excuse for lack of respect or kindness..

And parents with children too - have you been in a supermarket and been appalled by the way some parents talk to their children? I know I have and, I am afraid, that I have interfered - to my shame it all backfired on me and I did not handle it at all well - and would have approached the whole situation differently now - but, my point, from which I am getting further and further is, basically, just the same as Kevin made so succinctly, our tongue is a lethal weapon and we should measure its use..

I am sorry that you have been so physically challenged over the last few months - incredibly, God often uses these times to strengthen us - though we do not know this at the time!!!!!

Blessings to you and you family - and I will pray for you to be feeling more like your old self (pun intended) very soon. Bx

At 2:46 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

PS reading that back - I don't mean that I see incidents between Roger and his parents (heaven forbid! - just the opposite)- I mean between other people..

Don't know if that was clear....

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

There have been times That I wanted to butt in when a parent is saying something to a child that I know is emotionally going to hurt this child. It's sad.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger HeyJules said...

I'm so glad you got this post "up front" where it belongs. It touched a pretty raw nerve in me just like it did you. This past summer, having to wait for medication to do its thing and to not be "on top of my game" left me so afraid of what was to lie ahead. It was one of the scariest times of my life, but it has also taught me the value of family and strengthened my relationship with God. We are dependent creatures at the beginning of life and dependent creatures at the end of life and all the independency in the middle is just a mere break between the two. What an amazing thing to finally learn.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Bethany said...

This post really touched my heart. And interstingly enought our Sunday School lesson yesterday dealt with (in part) showing respect to elders. It mentioned all the verses about caring for widows and orphans...

It hurts to see people cause each other pain...and when I witness it, it usually makes me more cautios of the way I treat the people around me.

I don't ever know what to do in such situations...except pray. As Barbara mentioned, I've seen kids treated most horribly by there parents in the store...I have to really bite my tongue sometimes not to go off on them.

(I once saw a lady grocery shopping at Wal-Mart around midnight with three toddlers...they were cranky and tired and she was yelling at them constantly, screaming shut-up. I so wanted to tell her that if they were at home and in bed where they should be they probably would be behaving beautifully.)

I also, as a public school teacher, see the product of all this abuse in the children I teach. I have an especilly difficult class this year and I've noticed several "problem" children who take great delight in hurting others. It breaks my heart...but they didn't get to that point all by themselves.

Thanks for this post. It breaks my heart but it reminds me to love all the people I'm around and to treat them with respect....

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Mrs. Diamond said...

Oh that's so sad how that son disrespected his father.

Very good post. It's tough to be laid low for a time, but sometimes it's the only way God can get our attention when we're otherwise so busy!

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Hector said...

Valerie, I'm so glad you fixed the date of this post as it is a gem. I hope that hen I'm old and frail i have enough of the spirit within me to use the experience as a way to grow spiritually. St. Francis, St. Therese, and Pope John Paul II gave us good lessons...

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Paula said...

Great post. I hate to see anyone treated that way. Don't you think that the closer we become to our Jesus, the more these kinds of actions hurt us. I hopw and pray my children never treat me that way, or me my parents. I will pray for that man.

Dear Father,

Please be with this frail man. You know his name and the number of the hairs on his head. Pleaee keep him save and give his son patience. I pray most of all that he knows you as his Lord. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

I didn't know you were ill, I'm so sorry. I bet it's just like you to care for the others all around you when you are in need yourself. Love and hugs,

At 10:42 AM, Blogger My Kid's Mom said...

Kevin: I tottaly agree!!

Barbara: Roger sounds like a gem. My husband treats his parents the same way. I've told my daughters that when they are dating, they need to look at how a young man treats their mother, for that is the way he will treat his partner. I've been appalled by the way parents treat their little ones, too - and I've "interfered" at times as well.
I'm doing better physically every day, thank you. It's certainly a humbling experience.

Sarah: Yes, it's very sad. I can't imagine speaking to a dog like that, much less my own child!

Julie: Amazingly enough, I was also thinking of YOU when I was writing about this - I knew you'd understand!

Mrs. D: And God got your attention when you recently broke your toe, didn't he??? Thanks for stopping by!

Hector: I think watching Pope John Paul II go through the dying process with such dignity and calmness really helped me with my own fears about dying. Just thinking about him again brings tears to my eyes - I do miss him!

Paula: I doubt that your kids would ever treat you that way! And, I loved the prayer that you wrote for that man.


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