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Respecting Our Seniors

Rabbi Levi Cunin addresses the issue of end of life care and respecting our elders.

It has been many years since my dear mother read me a bedtime story. Yet, those precious moments and powerful stories continue to play a powerful part in my life and are a pivotal part of what my wife and I strive to transmit to our children.

In response to a certain unfortunate incident that I recently witnessed with a grown adult and their elderly parent, I share with you one of the many stories. Thanks mom!

When Jack Kunze's 88-year-old wife and life partner passed away, Jack, being incapable of caring for himself, asked his son Marty if he could move in with him and his small family. For Jack, asking anyone for favors was something he did his best to avoid. Since Jack was 16 years old, he had been independent. But with his poor health, Jack was no longer the strong man and now he had to turn to his son Marty for assistance.

Marty’s first response was very welcoming. Together with his wife Suzy and their 10 year-old son David, they helped Grandpa Jack move with them. Young David loved his new reality. Grandpa Jack used to tell him lots of funny stories and was always there to give his support, especially on those days when he returned from a rough day at school.

Grandpa Jack’s condition continued to worsen, and due to the escalation in his Parkinson’s disease, he became less and less capable of caring for himself. During this time, his son Marty was continuously losing his patience with his elderly and frail dad. Marty felt that the current situation was way more than what he originally signed up for. Marty and Suzy enjoyed their social life and taking care of dad was becoming way too burdensome.

And so it was, one night at the dinner table, grandpa Jack was holding an expensive and rare glass in his hand when suddenly he lost control of the glass, and the glass fell on the table, smashing the glass to many pieces and leaving the just cleaned carpet with a big contribution of freshly squeezed orange juice!

“That’s it.” shouted Marty. "I am done! You got plenty of friends and acquaintances, it's time for someone else to take care of you! "

And so it was, Marty grabbed a small suitcase, filled it with grandpa Jack's essentials, and dropped him off at the local community center.

Young David was devastated, but he also knew that it would be a bad idea for him to say anything. And so he retired to his room where he cried all night.

A few days later, young David took a detour on his way home to see if he would somehow get lucky in finding his beloved grandpa Jack. Lo and behold, to his total shock, Grandpa Jack was on a bench in the local park looking more weak and frail than ever before.

"Grandpa Jack, are you OK?" David gave Grandpa Jack a big hug and asked his favorite person on earth if there is anything he could do for him. Grandpa Jack told David that it gets real chilly at night and if he could arrange a warm coat for him he would really appreciate it.

David ran home and asked his dad if he could give him a coat for Grandpa Jack so he won’t be so cold at night. Marty instructed his son to make his way to the attic where there was a bag of old worn out coats. David went up to the attic and disappeared for over an hour when he finally returned. “What took you so long?” asked Marty. David pulled out the coat and showed his dad how he cut the coat in half!  "Have you gone mad? Why did you take such a nice coat and ruin it by cutting it in half! "

Young David took a deep breath and told his dad, “Half I am going to give to Grandpa Jack and the other half I am saving for the time when I do the same to you as you did to Grandpa!”

There are many invaluable lessons we must give to our children. One at the top of the list -- to become a living role model of what it means to respect and honor our elders.

tracy April 22, 2012 at 03:44 PM
thank you the reminder of how precious life is and that family is our best friend. Patience, tolerance and love are difficult to endure sometimes but well worth it for those who are suffering. God bless you for revealing this story.
Rabbi Levi Cunin April 23, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Thank you for your kind blessing! May you go from strength to strength on your journey.
Tahara April 23, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Reading this story touched my heart !

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