Those words were uttered by a woman as I spoke with her by phone recently. This woman, whom I’ll call Jean, was addressing her conviction that we all need advocates to get through life well. She talked about her own advocacy in companioning her mother through the later years of her life as she battled dementia and faced ever-increasing need for supportive services.
And now Jean’s good friend, for whom she would ‘step in front of a freight train', is herself in a nursing home. Jean is a good role model for all of us. Part of loving our neighbor as ourselves – one of the two great commandments – is being the advocate for our neighbor when he/she is more frail, more vulnerable, more marginalized and thus more dependent on another for his/her voice to be heard and honored. The advocate is the voice that demands:
“I’m in charge of my own life.”
“I want choice to be a part of my day regardless of my mailing address.”
“My life in a nursing home must be about more than safety and physical care. Rather, my life must be about purpose and meaning, about relationships, about beauty. All these aspects of life call from within to be present, honored and active regardless of one’s mailing address.”
“Moving to a nursing home should not feel like an imposition of a life sentence.”
Thank you, Jean, and all of you “Jeans” around the globe who hear that moral call of responsibility for the dear neighbor.
For whom are you called to be the advocate, to be the voice for the voiceless? Who will be there for you when and if you need an advocate, a voice for you when you cannot speak?