And Then You Have Me

Members | August 31, 2021 | by Carol Silver Elliot

LeadingAge Board Chair, Carol Silver Elliott, offers this message to members about loss and getting through difficult times. 

We all face our share of loss in our personal lives. No one goes through this life unscathed by pain, grief, heartache. That is part of the human condition. We have great joys and we have great sorrows. It is, as they say, what it is.

For those of us who work with older adults, loss is part of our reality. We deal with it, and we help families deal with it, every day. And during these endless COVID months, loss has been our constant companion. We have lost elders and staff, of course. But we have also lost, as our elders have lost, some of our ability to move freely, to do the activities we enjoy, to be with large groups of people . . . the list goes on. We have lost our naïve confidence that “things will work out” or that “everything will be okay” and replaced it with a wariness and a caution about all that we do today and all that we do in the future.

That being said, as I look at my colleagues in LeadingAge, I know that we are navigating this bumpy, twisting road as well as we can. We have not lost sight of quality of life for our elders, we have not lost hope and we continue to move strongly into the future. I have said many times, simply, that “It is a lot.” And it is, but we are getting through it.

My personal life has added another layer of complexity to that “lot” for me in recent weeks. A beloved family member of mine, a cousin who has often been like my older sister, is losing her battle with cancer. I am her POA for all things as well as the executor of her will, roles I did not know I had until her illness became so severe. It’s not a surprise I was happy to receive but we do what we must do for those we love, even when it is hard, even when it is complicated, even when we wish that someone else would do it for us.

I’ve just come back from a few days with her which included some real effort to try and organize her highly unorganized life. I’ve tucked my emotions deep inside as I’ve been in my work mode, figuring things out, trying to fix problems and moving forward. It is, I guess, my survival mode and it is eerily familiar after spending more than 18 months this way in my professional life.

Today I was driving between our campuses in what I describe as one of my “ping pong ball” kind of days when she called me. I was telling her about my crazy day, trying to distract her from her fears and her worries. And she said to me “And on top of all that, you have me.” It was a moment that stopped me cold. I told her what I believe, that she would do the same for me, that she is my family and I love her and there is nothing I would not do for her.

So much we all juggle and wrestle with, so much that we all have to deal with every day. Yet we are stronger than we think, braver than we know and while we all struggle with the “a lot” that these long months have brought, we will all continue to do what we must and continue to remember, and do, what matters.