On the New Year

Members | September 23, 2020 | by Carol Silver Elliott

A message about forgiveness from LeadingAge board chair, Carol Silver Elliott.

For those of us of the Jewish faith, we are in the midst of our High Holiday season. Rosh Hashanah, our New Year, just passed and next week we will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. On Yom Kippur we pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year and we reflect on all of our actions for the year just ending. Our tradition includes, even before the day itself, an effort to right any wrongs that may have transpired during the year—specifically those wrongs where we might have upset or offended or hurt another individual. In fact, there are some people who will go as far as to ask forgiveness from people close to them, for anything they might have done or said that upset or hurt them. Clearing the slate, as it were, for the coming year by making peace with the year that is ending.

Yom Kippur, like everything else this year, has a COVID overlay. As I think about asking for forgiveness, I find it most difficult to let go of the anger that I feel—anger about the way this pandemic has been handled and anger about the lack of information we have received as we have worked our way through this crisis. I am angry about the support that should have been provided and that just was not there when we needed it, angry about the ongoing demonization of nursing homes and other elder care providers. And I am angry on behalf of our elders, angry that they have been locked down for months with, for many of our organizations and communities, no end in sight.

All these things are not in my control, I know that, but I also feel a need to ask forgiveness from the elders that we serve. I feel the need to apologize for not having all the answers while we did the very best we could. I feel the need to apologize to those we could not save, profoundly sorry that even our best efforts were not enough against this virus. And most of all I feel a need to seek forgiveness for being forced to play roles we did not, and do not, want to play. We do this work because we care about older adults because we want their lives to be enriched, purposeful, and meaningful. Yet we are cast in the role of wardens and our fragile prisoners have been granted even fewer rights than if they were in a penitentiary somewhere.

Our elders would likely forgive me if I asked, would likely forgive all of us with graciousness and compassion that I struggle to find in myself. My prayers this year will, of course, include those for health, healing, and peace for my family, friends, and all of the elders with whom I am privileged to work. They will also include a prayer that we, as a society, never again marginalize and disenfranchise our elders and that we remember that advanced age does not diminish value or rights.

May your year be filled with blessings and may you continue to cherish, protect, and care for our elders.