One definition of dignity is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” It is a good, general, solid, definition.
There are many forms of dignity and many seem to apply to our age bracket.
Today, I lost one of my best friends. I watched her suffer and I watched her face and embrace humility. I was most struck by her insistence of maintaining her dignity. In so doing, nobody involved in her life was allowed to be lazy in thought, faith or deed. We were all prompted, encouraged and sometimes forced to forwardly march.
I think it does us well to be reminded of this important aspect of life. We all like to express our caring nature.
It is a very good thing to be reminded that caring respectfully is caring at its height.
My friend was a college educator who taught through the depth of her illness. She was on dialysis and sometimes forced to use a wheelchair because of weakness and pain. Regardless of this, she educated. She stood or sat at the front of her class and offered her wisdom and knowledge to aspiring educators.
She allowed no excuses for herself. She not only showed up, she stepped up. She wanted to share her passion, with dignity, until her last breath.
It is a gift to be in the presence of someone who values the opportunity to teach by example. I think we are sometimes quick to assume that unwellness means unableness. Demonstration of dignity is demonstration of worthiness by and for others. Both are so important.
My friend opened her house. She opened it to her family, her friends and sometimes complete strangers. When she was feeling most ill, she continued to share her home, which was always spotless, as was her yard.
The last time I saw her, she was pulling weeds in her front yard. She said the “bent over” position was the most comfortable for her. She valued tenacity and was tenaciously keeping her house and her yard up to snuff. I think she wanted to make sure this “bent over” position was dignified.
Over the past several months, Marilyn was racked with pain from the side effects of dialysis. There were times when she would beg with her eyes, and in her manner, for pain relief. She valued strength of character. It was obvious she meant to demonstrate that – regardless of circumstances. She carried on daily.
Several times it was suggested she go to the hospital so her pain could be better controlled. Perseverance was important to her. Although she had a short stint in the hospital near her end, she wanted the dignity of deciding her own journey to death. She checked herself out and went home when she was ready.
I write this as a memorial to my friend and to remind all of us of the importance of maintaining and allowing for dignity as we age, and as we participate, actively or passively, in the aging of others.