Deciphering my calling for my life has been difficult for most of my years. My heart’s desire to be a teacher was unobtainable, but I carried that desire into my own family doing many things with my children and eventually working in the school system as an Instructional Assistant.
However, as I reflect on my life, I am fascinated to note that older people were always a significant part of it. I was the youngest of my family and came late in life for my parents, so I didn’t hang out with my siblings very much. Growing up, I thought my parents were old and their friends were old, but I enjoyed being with them. We would frequently visit each other’s houses on Sunday evenings after church. Although my siblings did not come along, I was always welcome at my parents’ friends’ home. I would usually color at the kitchen table. The highlight of visiting them was being in their kitchen and having ham on a bun.
I loved the aunts and uncles who came to visit our farm. At the 4th of July family reunion, my Uncle Chuck would hang out with us kids and set off big fireworks. His wrinkly skin made him look ancient to me at the time, but he was so much fun. I remember how he carefully explained the dangers of fireworks. and when I stepped on one he quickly picked me up in his arms and ran me to my Mom. He was such a kind man.
When I sat with my great-uncle Gill, he would share a dish of peanuts with me. He would talk to me like I was the only person in the room. My great-aunt’s name was Matilda, but we called her Aunt Tillie. When my great-uncle died I missed sitting next to him and hearing stories. However, we would still visit my great-aunt. It was just the two of us in the kitchen, and we had our own conversation. She let me watch her make coffee and gave me a cookie before any of the others were served.
We visited other aunts and uncles and I went to many funerals and watched the grieving. I observed how my mother comforted others. When her Mother died, I was five years old. Mom shared with me that my grandma looked like she was sleeping, but she was actually living with Jesus now.
Sharing Life with the Elderly
Through the years more elderly people have come into my life. When I was a young woman and a hairdresser, many sweet, elderly ladies came to me to have their hair done. Because I was newly married. they offered kind words of blessing and encouragement. They appreciated being able to share their stories to someone who would listen.
When we moved to a new neighborhood, I met elderly neighbors whom I embraced with my heart and grieved deeply when they died. My favorite neighbor lady was 92. She didn’t have a lot of visitors since most of her friends had passed on and family members were busy or moved away. We would have tea together using her best china cup collection and windmill cookies. Even though I was in my late 40’s, I was nervous about drinking from such delicate cups. She insisted they were to be used. When my neighbor died, her daughter gave me one of her mom’s cups and saucers; I wept. We embraced and shared stories about Grandma Kay.
As the years went by, sorrow came into my household, and I was looking for employment. One of my good friends needed someone to help care for her mother who was 93. I was with her for a year before she died. She shared wonderful stories with me from her childhood and raising her own children. We shared carefree laughter as we watched wild turkeys competing for the bird feeder in her back yard. Yet I knew she was gradually becoming weaker and needed more help. One afternoon as we were walking down the hall she leaned on me and said “Jesus is coming for me. Jesus is here.”
“Yes,” I said and we continued to her bedroom for her nap. As I walked back down the hall, I knew her time here would not be long. I reflected on how freely she spoke about going to be with Jesus and seeing her husband again. She knew her time was soon and she was right. She passed on a several days later. Even though I had known my dear lady would be leaving soon, I wasn’t prepared and I wept. It was sad to lose her, yet, as I recalled her words, my heart was happy for she was where she longed to be.
Now even as I am growing older, I have the gift of visiting two beautiful elderly women at a local healthcare facility. One is eighty-seven and the other is ninety-eight. They too are lonely, spending their day in a tiny room. What blessed moments we share together. I give them my full attention and listen intently. I see the little girl, the young woman, the child of God in each of them. My position is to be a blessing when I am there, but it seems that I am the one who is blessed and I am grateful.
It seems my calling is to “be with” the elderly – to love, share quality time and give them the listening ear they long for. They have welcomed me into their lives and I am grateful for God’s call to be their friend.
image of hands by http://www.adiacares.com