Friday, August 3, 2012

Caring for one’s aging parents

*********** In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. ************* Reflection **************** There is no god but He, Praise and glory to Him; Far is He from having the partners they associate unto Him. (Tauba 9:31) ****************** While holidaying in Manchester, United Kingdom several years ago, I went to one of its famous car boot sales and bought a few second hand books – the one I would like to discuss in this article was written by Claire Berman entitled ‘Caring for Yourself While Caring for You Aging Parents (How to Help, How to Survive)’. This book was published by Henry Holt and Company Inc. ***************** During this ‘puasa’ (fasting) time, while going through my volumes of books, I came across the book again and I thought why not I discussed the topic mentioned as many of us, I included, have aging parents to be taken care of. ********************* Claire in her introduction reminded readers with a beautiful and helpful quotation from Dorothy Calvani, a former staff nurse in the Geriatric Clinic of New York’s Mt Sinai Hospital which read: “You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of another person.” ********************** The writer began her story by introducing herself. Among others, she wrote: “I am that adult child. At this time of writing, I am fifty-eight years old. My mother, Rebecca, age ninety, has been widowed for close to three decades, almost from the age that I am now. She has been suffering from dementia for the last half dozen of those years. It’s Alzheimer’s disease, according according to the many doctors that Mom and I have visited during this time… ****************** “My mother-in-law, Hazel, now ninety-eight, suffers from from a host of problems resulting from the deterioration of the machine that is her body. Simply and sadly, the parts are wearing out. You could open a pharmacy with the medication and pills that this frail woman must take each day just to make it to the next morning. ‘Old age is hell,’ she tells me one day when we speak on the phone. She begins to cry…” ********************* Well, as a responsible daughter and daughter in law, not all was sailing smoothly for Claire. She talked about her guilt, her anger, her fear, frustrating moments, feeling of powerless and being overwhelmed. ****************** She admitted that the key to be a better person was to have knowledge. “Knowledge is power,” she quoted Dr Lori Bright-Long, director of Geriatric Psychiatry at New York’s Pilgrim State Hospital as saying, “If you don’t have any strength or energy or you don’t know any way that you can face the problem, you will become much more overwhelmed than if you say to yourself, ‘Yes, I’ve got something I can do, I’ve got some power in this situation.’” Information is one of the most important coping mechanisms you can have. ********************* The issues revolving Claire and almost all of us who have aging parents are similar. For example she wrote: “I feel guilty because of my periodic outrage at a much-loved brother when I have felt he wasn’t doing enough…I feel anger when my mother, who was always neat and wll-groomed, insist on wearing the same soiled red woolen jacket day in and day out…I feel powerless because I cannot shape her life. And because I do not know, in this situation, what there is for each of us to do. At times, I find myself wondering not so much whether my mother will make it through a particular day, but whether I will!” ******************** Regarding the importance of knowledge while tendering one’s parents as mentioned by Claire, it is beneficial for Muslims to have Islamic knowledge and views about caring one’s parents. Yes, there are bountiful rewards in this word and the Hereafter to those who take great care of their parents; what more when they are of old age but those who abandon them would see the doom in this world and Hereafter. ******************** To those who have old age parents under their care, please take note about this hadith. Kaab bin Ujra relates, "Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, "Come near to the mimbar." And we came near to the mimbar. ******************* When he ascended the first step of the mimbar he said "Aameen." When he ascended the second step of the mimbar he said, "Aameen.: When he ascended the third step he said, "Aameen." ****************** When he descended we said, "0 Rasul of Allah, we have heard from you today something which we never heard before." He said, when I ascended the first step, Jibra-eel a.s. appeared before me and said, "Woe to him who found the blessed month of Ramadan and let it pass by without gaining forgiveness,” upon that I said, "Aameen." ****************** When I ascended the second step, he said "Woe to him before whom thy name is mentioned and then does not read Durood (salaat alan Nabi) on you." **************** I replied "Aameen." When I ascended the third step he said, "Woe unto the person in whose presence both parents or one of them attain old age, and (through failure to serve them) is not allowed to enter Jannah." I said "Aameen." (Reported by Haakim) **************** There are bountiful rewards to those who care for their parents and heavy penalties to those who resist but why nowadays more and more aged parents were abandoned by their own children? Some are left abandoned in their own homes, others are sent to old folks' homes. Among reasons given the children are busy working and don’t have the time to attend to their parents' needs. ************* We could not attain success if we abandoned our parents for heaven lies at the feet of mothers; he who wishes to enter Paradise through the best door must please his father and mother. ******************* The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “Allah delays all sins, by His Will, except the disobedience towards parents. He punishes the one who is undutiful to his parents even before his death.” ****************** Allah SWT said: “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a world of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. ****************** “And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” (Al-Isra; 17: 23-24) In one of our classical books of history and narrations, it is mentioned that once, Abdullah ibn Umar was doing tawaaf around the Ka’bah as an elderly person, many years after the death of the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam. ******************** And he saw a man doing tawaaf around the Ka’bah who had a very old lady on his back. He was doing tawaaf carrying this lady on his back. And when the man saw ibn Umar, he rushed up to him, recognizing who he is, and he said, “Oh ibn Umar,” oh son of Umar ibn al-Khattaab, “Oh ibn Umar, this lady on my back is my mother.” This lady is my mother. “And she had a desire to go do Hajj. And I live in such and such a province,” and he mentioned a far province in the Muslim lands, “And I could not afford a mount.” I could not afford an animal; I could not afford to bring her in any other means except by carrying her on my back, walking from such and such a village. “Oh ibn Umar, have I done my duty as a son?” Is the scale now equivalent? Have all of the good deeds that the mother did, have I now recompensed her the way that she deserves? ******************* Ibn Umar responded: “You have done nothing in return.” You’re proud and boastful about this? You have done nothing; your deeds are not worth anything in the scale! You’re comparing a scale of what your mother has done to what you have done back to her?! He says, “You have done nothing in return. But you have done good, and Allah will reward you.” ******************* The man said, “Oh ibn Umar, I have traveled from such and such a province,” what do you mean I’ve done nothing? “I have traveled from the furthest lands, carrying my mother on my back - and you say I have done nothing?” Ibn Umar said – and listen to this psychologist, listen to the profundity of the response that he gave to this man, listen to it and understand it and apply it in your daily lives – he said: ******************* “You have done nothing because: when she sacrificed everything for you; when she did everything that she did for you – she gave up her time, her pleasures, her health – she gave up everything she had to raise you as you are – she did it out of a pure love and joy – wanting to see you flourish, waiting so you grow up and you live a full healthy life – she did it for your life - and now that you do it in return, you are waiting for her death – doing it as a pity – doing as an equivalent, doing it in return for the favors – you’re not doing it to see her flourish and live. You’re doing it as a sense of guilt, trying to pay back what she’s done, and waiting for her death, so she is literally off your back.”

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