Tonight I was reading some poetry of one of my favourite Greek Poets, Constantine Cavafy, born in Alexandria in 1863. One of my favourites of all time has been the 'Candles' for it encapsulates the experience of aging. Even though written in Greek, I found a translation that is close to the original text and I'd like to share it with you:
'Days to come stand in front of us
like a row of lighted candles—
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
Days gone by fall behind us,
a gloomy line of snuffed-out candles;
the nearest are smoking still,
cold, melted, and bent.
I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.
I don’t want to turn for fear of seeing, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly the snuffed-out candles proliferate.'
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)
How is aging viewed in your culture? How do elderly get treated in your country of origin or your community here in Australia? And is there a link between aging and mental illness? How do people in your circle deal with their mortality or the mortality of their loved ones? How do you view the end of life through your cultural or spiritual lenses?
Many culturally and linguistically diverse elderly experience loss and grief, depression, anxiety and/or other mental illnesses without necessarily having a diagnosis. Many may not be aware that this is not a normal part of aging. Often medications prescribed for various other conditions can cause depression as a side-effect.
Is there someone you know that has been affected by depression, anxiety and/or other illnesses but doesn't realise it? Hasn't been diagnosed? Or perhaps their cultural and religious beliefs stop them from asking for help? How can you support them? How do you start a conversation around this often 'taboo' topic?
I'd like to hear your perspectives....