Monday, October 08, 2007

Payback Time

In the past year, I know of two wonderful older men that have attempted to commit suicide. One, I knew personally, the other is close to a friend of mine. Neither was successful in their attempt, although my friend had given up on life and living and slowly gave way to death. Both men were found by their wives, who intervened to save the lives of their husbands. Both were in their eighties. Both had led very active lives. Both had kids and grandkids that they loved, were proud of and lived relatively close by. Both were loved.

So why is it that these two men would try to take their own lives? I have to address this question because my own father is approaching mid seventies. If the answer lies in a generational philosophy, I need to know.

From what I have gathered from the families of both of these men, though they were once strong, capable and active men, they now felt useless. They were the ones that always took care of their families and now they were needing to be cared for. They were often frustrated that they could no longer do things by themselves and for themselves. They often refused to see their own inabilities or tried desparately to work through them in hopes that others would not see them. Somehow, growing old had become their greatest failure in life.

One man's attempt caught the family completely by surprise, the other--maybe not so much. Both have had an impact on me. So many older men have had their influence on my life. They have so much more to offer than what their physical bodies are able to do. They have a lifetime of experiences and wisdom to share with us. I think that we have forgotten the skills of storytelling and (more importantly) listening to stories. We have placed so much value on doing and so little on the wisdom of confronting life. We receive so much information today via the internet, cable TV, satellite radio, news posts via cell phones and pagers, that we have tuned out talking to people as a way of gathering information. It is a most inefficient way of transferring information and one for which we are unwilling to make the time. It is also the very best way of ascribing value to those that have lived life before us and forged the way for us to continue onward.

In a world where the lastest and greatest invention is obsolete in a matter of months, have we as a society set our older men and women on a self to collect dust as if they were as obsolete as a Pentium processor? Shame on us! King Solomon wrote in Proverbs that "The gray head is a crown of glory, if it is found in righteousness."

I would encourage you to call or visit your dad or grandfather--today. Do it as soon as you finish reading this short rant. Give them some of what is most valuable to you--your time; yourself. Honor them by listening--even if you've heard their stories before.

When we were kids, they held our hands and slowed down to walk with us at our speed. Now it's our turn to slow down and take life at their speed. We owe them so much. Certainly we can find a few moments each day to thank them for their contribution to life.


The glory of young men is their strength; and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
King Solomon, Proverbs 20:29


Bilbo said...

As I wrote in response to the meme that Sue tagged me with the other day, the person I most admire is my father. He's the epitome of integrity, love, caring, and good humor in adversity. He and Mom raised four of us (no small challenge, considering our family) and gave us a good home and a good example. Mom has been gone for six years now, but Dad is now 84 and still vigorous and active. I talk to him at least once a week and still admire him more than any man I've ever met. He'll be visiting us for our big Thanksgiving family reunion at our home, and it'll be an honor and a privilege to have him. I have his gray hair...I just hope I can have his character and personality when I'm 84.

Rich said...

I just found out about one of the incidents that you're talking about. How incredibly sad... I've got more thoughts on it, which I've put in my blog.


The Magic Utopian said...

I had someone very close to me commit suicide when he was in his late 60's. I don't know if it was for the same reasons as you mention, but suicide is a tragic event that impacts everyone. I hope your friends and their families can come to understand the nature of their own unique experiences.