An aged man I befriended died, but his children are ungrateful

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my late 60s, and I supported an elderly man during the latter stage of his life. I did it on behalf of his family, as he lived alone. However, his children haven’t said a single word of gratitude to me. I feel very empty.

I became acquainted with the man about seven years ago. He was knowledgeable about growing vegetables and watercolor paintings, which are my hobbies, too. We became friends, and he began dining at my house once or twice a month. He was a charming person, and my wife and I had a good time with him.

However, three years ago, we began supporting his life overall when he was hospitalized after suffering from heart failure and a brain infarction.

In his last year of life, he needed aid on a completely different level. We tried to support him as much as possible.

He had two children. I wrote them both letters and called, but neither replied. They finally came to see him right before he died this spring.

I have yet to hear any gratitude for my support. It would be enough for them to just say, “Thank you for supporting my father.” I wonder if they associate me with their father, about whom they apparently had painful memories.

I try to convince myself that my role is over, but I still feel empty. How can I cope with this?

Y, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Mr. Y:

I well understand how you feel empty because I had a similar experience. Many other people have probably also had a similar experience at least once or twice.

We just want to hear “Thank you.” That’s it. We don’t want money or presents as a token of their gratitude.

But they won’t say such a simple phrase. They won’t bow their heads to show their gratitude, either. There seem to be more people like this nowadays.

In your case, it seems like the man’s children had a terrible conflict with him. They hated their father so much that they have probably directed their hatred at you, too.

So it won’t help even if you kindly tell them they are in the wrong.

If they were thinking reasonably enough to understand their mistake, they would not have acted that thoughtlessly from the start.

It probably doesn’t feel right, but you should try to let it go, as some people don’t know how to react to other people’s kindness.

The man was likely full of gratitude to you when he died, so your efforts were rewarded. You made friends with the man, which had nothing to do with his children.

If I have an uncomfortable experience, I usually try to forget about it, because I want to believe my assistance was not in vain.

Tatsuro Dekune, writer

(from May 10, 2015, issue)Speech

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