Dolores came out of a fog for a few moments orienting herself. As her need for sleep increased, the realization of numbered days peeked through. Dolores knew that it was a matter of time. The weakness of mind and body was on the march, but at this moment, she had a few lucid thoughts. Reclining in her daughter’s living room, Dolores began to reminisce about her life.
Her husband had taken his one-way flight to Heaven long ago. Together, they did the best they could to raise a family under atypical circumstances. Dolores could not help herself, that she favored one child. Yes, she knew it was unfair and did everything she could to be equal in provisions, but on some level, Dolores knew it was never enough.
Reflecting further, as much as she loved her family, Dolores derived great pleasure from working outside of the home. Initially, financial difficulties prompted her to enter the workforce when her children were young. While her husband worked nights, Dolores worked days to be there for the child who was at home. As she thinks about it, she never resented the sacrifice for her children.
Dolores remembers her daughter asking why she never complained about this, as so many do nowadays. She told her daughter that it was just a part of life, and love for her family triumphed all.
Dolores thought about how pleased she was to have managed to remain independent in this last chapter of her life. She recalls reluctantly retiring at the age of seventy after being offered a financial package. A few people thought it was strange that Dolores was hesitant about this significant life passage. They could not comprehend her desire to continue working and not ease into this final part of her life’s journey.
Besides her children who no longer needed her, Dolores loved work. Not only did it give her a sense of connection with others but one of accomplishment. Dolores took much pride in excelling at her job and was concerned about the future replacement of this. Over the next year, she managed to occupy herself but knew a return to some form of employment was in order. Fortunately, her place of work, a large medical center, was looking for assistants to fragile patients who needed supervision.
Immediately beginning her new job, Dolores could feel a sense of renewal. Because she loved people, sitting with patients, could not be more fulfilling work. Dolores would share stories with her daughter as well as the sheer joy that pulsated when receiving thanks for her diligence. One time, she described a situation where a woman attempted suicide over the loss of her mother. Dolores told her daughter that she said to the woman, ”Be strong for your son—the people on the fifth floor (Psych. Unit) will help you.” Her daughter being in the people business, complimented her mother’s handling of the situation.
Although these intrusive and somewhat hostile questions were not constant, Dolores began to feel shameful about her love for work. At one point, out of the blue, she told her daughter that she was considering retirement.
As Dolores continued to recall bits and pieces, a less positive memory emerged. There were several months in the last few years where people would look disapprovingly at her. Some would ask, ”Why don’t you retire?” Others queried, ”How come you want to keep working?” Although these intrusive and somewhat hostile questions were not constant, Dolores began to feel shameful about her love for work. At one point, out of the blue, she told her daughter that she was considering retirement. Her daughter responded with surprise, ”That is fine, mom, but what is driving this?” Dolores confessed about the negativity she was receiving from others about her desire to work. Her daughter became protective of her, and angrily replied, ”You tell those people that those who work longer often live longer.” Dolores looked at her daughter and, with her usual boldness, said, “No, I am going to say instead that I am like Betty White.” Her daughter smiled and commended her, “Excellent Mom.”
Thinking back, Dolores was pleased with herself. As she got ready to depart her earthly existence, she sighed with contentment. She realized how much pleasure she received from the dignity of work and was pleased to see her children carrying through with a superb work ethic. Also, Dolores was happy to be an example of overcoming the old stereotype of being too old to work. As she took her final breaths, she was hoping she paved the way for her children as well as others. Now Dolores was ready for her departure. Everyone had left except for her daughter. Her son-in-law slipped away but told her daughter, “Tell your mother, I send hugs and tell her goodbye.” As Dolores looked up, she saw those who left before her inviting her to join them. The light was bright and irresistible. She opened her eyes wide for her daughter to see her launch to the next world. Peacefully, she departed for her final destination. A great joy took over that could not be put into earthly words. Yes, there is no place like home.
Author’s Note: On February 4, 2015, my mother, Dolores Corbett, took her one-way flight to Heaven, joining my Dad and many other loved ones. She was like a Lion who could roar but also lion-hearted. I gave the eulogy discussing my mother’s fierceness as well as her love and generosity. In many ways, she was a trailblazer working past eighty years of age. Consequently, she experienced the “ism” of ageism. Some might say she was too old to work. I argue that it is about choice. Even the Wall Street Journal suggested that if people want to live longer, they should contribute to society. I am sure there would have been no arguments from my mother as there are not from me.
After my mother died, I initially wrote on this subject. Even though I suggested it was about choice, there was much pushback. I doubled down as I will continue to do so. No matter what our circumstances are, purpose, financial, or both, everyone should be allowed to choose their unique path without worry about age bias. I am fortunate to have selected professions, therapy, speaking, and writing, which enable the individual to pursue these endeavors at seasoned ages. I will continue to promote the idea of choice and remaining independent. Ultimately, isn’t that what most of us want? I invite you to share your thoughts.
Wonderful article Darlene. Both my wife and I heard “You need to retire” more times than we can count from co-workers, senior executives and family. Everyone has the right to continue to do what they love for as long as they love it and are both capable and willing to perform.
Thank you so much Frank for reading and commenting on this important article. I am so pleased we spoke earlier. All of us have a right to navigate the chapters of our book of life. Thank you again!💖
Darlene, your mother is a great example! Thanks for sharing your mom’s story. There is dignity in contributing to society in whatever way fits you as an individual. Probably most people will need to adapt and shift what exactly that means over the years. Yet some can step up to make a bigger difference in people’s lives. For the people your mother helped, that was definitely true. What would each of those individuals have done without her indeed.
Thank you so much Cynthia for your thoughtful and endearing post. My mother would be pleased and honored by your statement! I am conveying my gratitude for her.💖
This prejudice arises from the stereotype according to which old age is a period of physical and cognitive decay which cannot be remedied. This destiny is recognized to all without distinction, so much so that we are amazed when we meet an elderly person in the full of their faculties who continues to carry on their activities and maintain an active spirit.
As long as old age has remained relatively rare, however, the oldest have maintained a social role, as custodians of important skills and information. Modernity has brought epochal transitions that have reduced the visibility of older members of society, diminishing their opportunities and eroding their authority. Rapid social changes have made knowledge of the past less relevant. Aging has gone from being a natural process to a social problem that needed to be remedied.
The whole of society must fight this stereotype of ageism because it threatens everyone and above all does not allow us to age in a serene and active way. Old age is not a threat, but the right compromise with longevity, and it is appropriate that everyone ages in the best way without the fear of asking for help because otherwise he looks old.
Thank you so much for your extemely thought-provoking comment about modern ageism. I could not agree with you more. As all of our lives, the rung of the journey is unique for each person. We should honor people’s ability to age with grace in whatever form that works for them. Truly, as someone said, growing old is a privilege. I appreciate your remarkable post.
Thank you for your beautiful share Darlene. So sorry for the loss of your precious mother.
What commendable how your mother regardless her age wanted to contribute to this world and in such a beautiful way.
Such a great example to share so much of your own greatness with others, because you love people.
A life of great fulfillment on het own terms, amazing.
While I am writing this there is such a pure feeling of the love between a mother and a daughter.
There is so much love here, not only in your writing.
Appreciate the great share Darlene!
Thank you so much Ineke! I am so pleased you read this and commented. Yes, my mother was very strong, and we shared a special bond. I think of her every day, and as I often say, I believe she is smiling from afar as I smile at your lovely note. I am most appreciative. I wanted to leave a heart, but I am writing from my PC versus my iPad. I send you a virtual hug with a heart.
Thanks, Darlene. Beautiful.
My sister called me after my father died and said, “Wow. There’s only three of us left.”
Isn’t it odd how much so many of us invest in coincidence? Age, race, gender, height, country of birth, birth order, are all accidentals, right? As far as I can figure out, we don’t get to raise our hands and ask, “Could I please be born a white male American? Thanks! Thanks very much!” while we’re lined up waiting for the next available conception.
So why is White Power even a thing? I should find my identity in an accident? So I push (gently, ever so) the idea of character over category.
Finally, here’s the latest episode of Serenity Pretzel – Vacuum Cleaning. Lengthy this time, almost 90 seconds.
Thank you so much, Mac! I appreciate your thoughtful comment! It is so true. When our parents die, we often look around and realize the preciousness of who is left. Yes, I could not agree more—character triumphs category. You are so right. We cannot control what we are, so why not manage who we become. I will check out YouTube. Thank you again.💖
What a beautiful tribute to your mother, Darlene. This essay really touched my heart. I agree completely that we can be of service to other people all the days of our lives. Having choices and the freedom to choose among those (hopefully) many choices remains very important to me, too. I love the examples of Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Betty White, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Thich Naht Hahn, and many other people who continued/continue to do what they love and contribute value, insights, joy, love, beauty to our lives. As someone who finally reached the bonus round of being alive, I have no plans to retire. I’m just getting started!! 🙂 Thank you so much for this beautiful piece of writing. What a rich blessing to have had a mom who modeled vibrant independence no matter what other people said! Good for her to have left this world fulfilled-knowing she left a legacy of love and valuable contribution. She lived a life she loved! So Beautiful!!
Thank you dear Laura! My mother loved people, and this last position could not have been more perfect. Cheers to all of us who are beginning new chapters in our lives. I appreciate your lovely comment.💖
Beautifully said. Couldn’t agree more. As someone who is fast approaching my 70th birthday, I’m the only one I’ll allow to tell me to work or not work. 70 is the new 60 anyway. I think people who ask “Why don’t you just retire?” may be miserable in their work; maybe they never found that it provided value to others or themself, so they can’t wait for retirement. Who knows. It’s not their business. As long as I feel I’m providing value to my clients and nourishing myself, I’ll continue to work. Brava to your Mom!
Thank you so much Jeff! I appreciate your validation. Yes, we do not know people’s motives, but I agree with you. It is none of anyone’s business. My mother would be most pleased with your ”brava.”💖