We were driving along the 5 Freeway on a rainy Tuesday when Bob remarked, “She won’t know who you are. Sometimes she doesn’t recognize her own children. She has moments when she is quiet and times when she’s more talkative. It all depends.”
Bob was referring to his wife of almost 65 years who was in a nursing home living with Alzheimer’s. I attempted to assure him it was okay and that I was eager to visit his beautiful bride to see where she had been living for the past two years.
“Bob, my greatest desire in joining you today is to be a friend and to let you know you’re not alone.”
Admittedly, I felt a little guilty. As I mentioned, Bob’s wife had been in a care facility for two years and he had walked much of that time without the support of his church family.
“Thank you, Pastor Debbie, because sometimes I need to know that”, he humbly commented.
“It’s 24 miles one way. That’s 48 miles round trip.”
He seemed proud. And he should be proud. His commitment to the wife of his youth was something to be admired, not to mention his driving ability at 88 years old. Typically I’m not the best passenger, but his calm demeanor and confident skill put me at ease in spite of the rain.
“I go every day to see her. People think I go to bless her, but truth be told I’m the one that gets blessed”, he stated in his charming way.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt relaxed around older folks. Their peaceful presence is somewhat soothing. No arrogance. No hint of pretense. No need to impress. And for those who’ve allowed it, life seems to have almost shaken out any note of self-importance leaving the rare and precious gift of a mature senior.
Over this past year, however, the Lord has revealed to me another aspect of this group of people that before had mostly escaped my notice. It’s like God took blinders off my eyes and began to show me the many needs among our beloved seniors.
Did you know that the fastest growing part of the U.S. population is the very old, that is, those over eighty-five? This group is projected to swell to a whopping 9.6 million people by the year 2030.
This community is growing and will continue to grow as people are living longer. With this new reality, there is also a growing trend of isolation and depression among our elders. This group of individuals, generally speaking, doesn’t text or have Facebook accounts. They are accustomed to the old-fashioned way of connecting – a phone call.
In some of my most recent conversations, I’ve discovered the very real problem for many of them to simply get back and forth to church on a Sunday morning. While my heart has truly been broken for this special group of people, simultaneously my mind thinks, “I could do that!” I am capable of providing a ride, making a phone call or paying a visit. These are simple gestures that honor our elders, but more importantly honor and please God.
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” Lev. 19:32
It is common to forget about the aged, especially when they’re seniors like Bob who are just trying to stay afloat and do what must be done. They don’t want to complain or be a burden, let alone have their independence threatened in any way.
So if I could leave you with one thought, it would be this … visit your grandparents (if you have them) or take that elderly neighbor a batch of cookies (they all seem to really like sweets!). Or here’s a crazy idea - how about taking your cell phone that’s with you 24/7 and making a call (yes a real live phone call!) to that older person who comes to mind.
You could be a welcome surprise to remind an older person they are not alone.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35