A New Stage of Life

By Rabbi Richard F. Address

Life is about transition

I am currently involved in one of our generation’s new life-stage adventures: accompanying a parent into an assisted living facility. We went back this morning to look again at my mom’s new apartment. We were there to take some measurements, trying again to see what she can bring and what must be sold or given away or stored.

Information overload took its toll about 45 minutes into the experience. I could see this independent lioness becoming overwhelmed by the stress of decisions. At lunch, we sat at the local deli, and she reflected on how difficult it is to part with decades of memories, items, and tangible manifestations of life.

Many of us are experiencing this stage of life, or we will at some point. Fraught with emotional traps and challenges, it can be terrifying for all involved. We love to write and read of the powerful spiritual moments that can arise during this time. Often, this is true. Often, parents and children become closer, drawing strength from one another.

Yet, sometimes, the challenges become exceedingly stressful on so many levels. For, as our parents come to understand the finality of the move and what the move means on so many levels, we too are reminded, in not so subtle ways, that we are also aging. And we walk the halls of the facility, wondering if this too shall be our last place of residence.

I raise this all-too-real scenario to suggest that you encourage your religious institution—be it church, synagogue, mosque, or gathering—to devote serious time to allow for discussions that focus on the psycho-spiritual aspect of these transitions. They are profound for everyone in a family, for nothing in a family happens in a vacuum. If we are blessed, we will be granted years of life.

For many, and we do not know who they shall be, these types of moves will become a necessity and a blessing in themselves. But, despite the need, they are never easy. These are moments that require strength of soul and purpose and the vision that such a move will enhance a loved one’s quality of life, and perhaps ours as well.

These discussions are important as well, for they touch on this concept of moving on, transition, and letting go. For the Christian and Jewish communities, this is a season to examine these themes through the focus of Lent, Easter, and Passover. They represent, each in their own ways, these ideas of transition. Once you move away from the historical ties and themes, the real message of these festivals is that of personal transition and change. It is a reminder that, no matter what stage of
life we are in, we are always changing, moving on, and letting go.

Sometimes in small ways, and others, in major, life-changing ways.

I am off in a bit to return to my mom’s apartment to help sort out what stays, what goes, and what is to be sold. With every glass or dish or picture, there is a story. It is her story and, in a way, mine as well.

Transitions are tough. Moving on can be a challenge. It is not, like in the movies, filled with high drama and stirring music. Rather, it is quiet, a part of life—and in this we may find its true essence. Life is about transition and having the faith to deal with all that these
transitions bring.