The director of the nursing home ministry from my church reached out to the volunteers and made mention of a woman who lived in an assisted living facility. She hoped to receive more visitors, if possible. I had only one other person to visit, so it made sense for me to check it out. From my limited experience, it starts to wear on you after a while, seeing older people struggle through simple activities. It can sometimes be heartbreaking to witness the suffering and pain they go through. Part of me wanted to ignore this difficult part of life and leave the ministry altogether. If I chose to ignore their suffering, mine would go away. After wrestling with the thought of quitting, I asked myself a simple question. If there is the slightest chance that my interaction would somewhat ease their suffering, would I not act?
A few months prior, the last living grandparent of mine (my grandmother) had passed away. I had always been remarkably close to all my grandparents. Such a relationship was always dear to me. When I see someone like the woman in the photograph for this post, it inspires me! What an example she is setting for us to follow… to live, laugh, and enjoy life! There is something admirable in elderly people. They are survivors of all kinds of things, having endured countless attacks on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Yet, there they are every time we see them, still weathering the storms of life. If you will take the time to listen, they have numerous stories to tell. The retelling of these stories takes them from the comfort of their enclosed living spaces back to times of adventure and travel. It gives them a chance to relive memories they have long since forgotten but come tumbling back, though at times foggy on the details.
So, I arranged a visit with the other woman, from the assisted living home. From the moment her and I spoke, I knew she was a kind woman. To this day, I am still not sure as to what her real age is. When she recalls it, it has ranged anywhere from eighty to over a hundred. On my second visit, when I greeted her, she had forgotten about me entirely, although it had only been several weeks that passed. But she cheerfully spoke to me anyway and soon remembered my previous visit. We chatted for about an hour and got to know each other a bit more. I prayed over her before leaving and she made me feel very welcome to return. However, I informed her a work trip would keep me away for some time, but I would return when able.
The day I returned to visit after my trip, I found her in the lunchroom sitting at a table. Her face lit up with a smile when she saw me, as did mine. I was happy that she remembered me this time. I took a seat beside her. She immediately wanted to hear all about the trip. She had been to many of the places I went and recalled memories of her own that she told me about. She repeated several times how glad she was that I was able to take the trip. A staff member came by and asked if I could fix her television before I left for the day. I agreed to look and saw she was getting tired, so we returned to her room.
I fooled around with some things and soon the television was working again. I handed her the remote and she wanted to try it. Then came an odd combination of button pushing in the wrong order, which resulted in turning the tv on but not the cable box on, and then vice versa. Back and forth she went but could not get the two to work together. She handed me the remote and I explained what was happening. She instructed me to just leave it on and turn the volume down. I complied with her request. If only I could help her eliminate fifty buttons on the remote, leaving only the five buttons she needs to function the tv, it could sure make her life easier. Maybe one day my friend. Before I left, I prayed with her and asked if she would take a picture with me. She happily agreed. In addition, I asked if she wouldn’t mind being my adoptive grandmother. She laughed and said that would be fine too.
The truth is no one can ever truly replace the loved ones who have passed away. However, there are needs on all sides and love waiting to be shared. If you open yourself up to it, God can bring some amazing people into your life.