06/24/2013 08:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Rock of the Elders

Have you noticed we're all moving towards becoming elderly or elders? What's the difference?

2013-06-22-dadshands.jpg I'm helping care for two elders. In their 90's, they are still teaching me. They share their lives with me in vulnerability. As they struggle with their physical bodies, their spirit is strong and their perspectives clear.

Time for them has become a season at a time and what they choose to plant is a harvest for humanity to sow, if we choose.

They invite me to be vulnerable before time and age pushes me into it. They are part of an invitation to each of us to be vulnerable to our families of humanity before time and the ages push us into it. They share the wisdom of their ages as they remind me I am them and they are me and though time seems to separate us, we are the same.

Life today is filled with busyness and stress. The elders watch in awe and concern as they see us race in and out of their lives and ours. We do a quick check in here with a moment to spare for our ourselves. Often those moments are made about what is happening in our businesses, the economy and the world. Rarely do we have time to return "home", to be held and rocked by the elders, who now have time on their hands and compassion in their hearts. They know what it feels like to have time, stress and busyness deplete our Life savings faster than it is being replenished.

Many of the elders become elderly as they are forgotten and have nowhere to deposit their wisdom and love. They sit in homes, often not their own, watching for those they call family, to come and spend a moment before they rush out and are left waiting for the next visit. They wait for their family to "include them." And as they wait, they watch others around them as they wait. They watch as others grow old, become elderly and eventually fade away waiting for their bodies to catch up to their dying spirits. These elders who hold the door open for us to walk through as we navigate life are often left to walk alone because we are too busy to look back and include them in life.

I realize as I help my father out of the car, how many times I have taken his arm in my life as he led me through life's prickly points. How many times he held me up as I grew up.

I feel my mother's strength in her vulnerability as she asks me to help her with her hair and walk with her as she moves from place to place. How many times she has done these things, not because I couldn't do them but because she could and did, without me having to ask her. She innately knew the times I was too afraid to ask for her to rock me as she gently stepped forward taking the lead as I learned the dance of life. Her timing was always impeccable when I was afraid. Yet I never felt as through she took any dignity from me as she held me gently and moved with me though no one could see her except my spirit and hers.

Now, I watch the grace of elderhood as they prepare to hold another door open for me.

Their daily ritual of getting up and preparing for another day is a dance of beauty. They look in the mirror and prepare themselves for the day... the day whatever that means and holds. They teach everyday and every moment, revealing what depth they hold as they choose to stay in the world, to care, to love and to hope for the future of those they call family. They teach me that family is much grander than those you give birth to. They teach that vulnerability is softness and certainty in life regardless of what each of us have planned for as we grow older. They teach me that we will all be where they are and that we too will either live as the elderly or as the elders, and that we can live by recognizing the difference -- now.

Age is of no matter to the elders. Age is everything to the elderly. We're choosing what we will live, by the way we live and experience our elders or our elderly. The moments hold the difference. They seem inconsequential separately but they add up as we race past our elders or elderly. Those moments can haunt us if we suddenly realize the door has been held open throughout our lives and we forgot to acknowledge those holding it, say thank you and invite them into our world.

We must change our whole idea and thought about growing old and becoming elderly. We must change our idea of how "it takes time" to be with our elderly to the expansion of time experienced as the elders share in our choices for the future -- our future. We must embrace the elders and hold them close, to be so vulnerable that we nor they can tell who's rocking who but that we are being rocked together, moment to moment, as family.