Marin Independent Journal
August 5, 2010
by Ruth Rakovsky
I’m a retired professional who is part of the Civic Engagement Leadership Team. The program, run by Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, affords me the opportunity to happily volunteer my professional services with Marin County nonprofits.
Quite by accident – although I suspect now it was not an accident at all – I was asked to meet with facilitators from AgeSong, a program of Family Service Agency of Marin. Since, in my former career I was very involved with nonprofits, and knew and respected FSA, my answer was a resounding, “Yes.”
Going in, I knew that AgeSong provides intimate discussion groups for those 65 and older. What I didn’t know is that AgeSong would also be an answer to my prayers.
I am 64 years old. My husband of eight years is a decade older and struggles with a myriad of health problems. While we are best friends, honeys and lovers, I also accept, but sometimes feel weary from, performing the less glamorous task of being his caregiver, chauffeur, and nurse practitioner.
With each passing day, I’ve needed to face the fact that my beloved husband may not be around much longer. I have spent many hours wondering what I’ll do if he dies, how I’ll be able to go on.
Before meeting the AgeSong facilitators, I had gotten to the point where, even though I enjoyed my children, grandchildren, volunteering and jewelry business, I had began to wonder how I could ever enjoy the time I have left with my husband, not without worrying all the time.
Initially, when meeting the AgeSong folks, I focused on developing marketing strategies to increase enrollment. I didn’t really understand the heart of the program until I began the reading the book, “AgeSong,” by Elizabeth Bugental, the program’s co-founder.
Dr. Bugental had to have been looking into my own house when she wrote it. She saw the body limitations, the laughter, the childish play, the achy knees and limited vision – and yet, also how we were exploring new ways of looking at our limited world.
As I eagerly read the book and the facilitators’ lessons plans, I became captivated and motivated – almost on fire – to share the information with my husband. We had increasingly been fighting over his diet and activities, none of which were healthy for his congestive heart failure. We weren’t laughing the way we used to and weren’t playful enough even though we put on a good show. No wonder he wanted to snuggle in bed; it was the best place to recapture our sweetness and connection that couldn’t be marred by words or “bad” foods or “what ifs.”
Learning about AgeSong has helped me feel more hopeful about the future.
I’ve signed up to participate in the program, which aids older adults in dealing with the very issues my husband and I face. In discussion groups led by trained professionals, participants are able to draw greater meaning into their last phase of life; opening horizons to share their fears and joys, and to face denial and explore new possibilities.
Participants report that the groups make them feel more alive, capable of making a difference in our own lives (not always worrying about the others) and enriching their days.
My husband may die sooner than I want, but he is here with me now. We are learning to enjoy every day with open minds and hearts, and to discover new possibilities.
Thank you, AgeSong!