Editor’s Note: Rabbi Holly Cohn is a hospice chaplain in Texas and wrote this as part of her class on Aging that is part of Wurzweiler School of Social Work’s Certificate in Gerontology and Palliative Care that Rabbi Address teaches in.
One thing I love about Judaism is all the moments connected to ritual. There is something powerful about sanctifying a specific time, transition, milestone, or life-cycle event. My dad turns 90 today and is still able to do almost all activities of daily living despite having Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. As his ADLs diminish and his illnesses progress, it would be nice to have rituals and/or prayers that normalize the changes he will continue to face.
As he has aged, one transition that was very difficult for him was when he had to begin using a walker both in and outside of the house. He resisted it at first, but now has one we call the Rolls Royce (It is a rollator walker that is special for someone with Parkinson’s Disease. It is weighted and does not fold up). The other, used outside the home is his Sports Car (A snazzy red walker with black stripes that does fold up). I got this idea for naming them from one of my hospice patients who calls her nicer walker her Bentley. Perhaps, if there were a prayer one could say for this change in mobility, or a ritual associated with having to use assistive devices, this might normalize something many perceive as a sign of weakness or deterioration.
For the transition of needing to use a walker:
Dear God, I know sometimes my legs fail me so bless me with strength and courage during this journey in life to accept the assistance I need. There is nothing shamefull about my body needing added support. I will thrive and be able to participate in the world around me more freely. If others think less of me then so be it. I know that I am created in Your image and am not broken but made more whole and holy through daily interactions, the ability to maintain balance and protect this holy body that you have given to me. Step by step I thrive. Step by step you enliven my soul. Mobility in all its forms is a blessing. Baruch atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech haolam, hameichin mitzadei gaver. Blessed are you Eternal One, Sovereign of the Universe, who makes firm our steps.