Let me tell you why I’m thinking and writing about this now. In contemplating the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9-11, I saw a piece that asked the simple question that we often ask when discussing life-changing historical events… “Where were you when…?” This was a very personal day for me as my parents were in Washington D.C. at the time of the attacks. So naturally my 9-11 thoughts went directly back to my feelings of that day and hoping my parents were ok.
Then I started thinking about the rich heritage that I have been blessed with. My dad’s mom lived near us most of my growing up years. I have never known another woman more devoted to Jesus. He was the rhythm of her life in every way. She (and others) taught me to love reading… especially reading the Bible. My mom’s parents were ever only married to each other and showed us the value of hard work and a love for the people around you. All of them followed Jesus.
I have always (even as a kid) been able to talk to older people. I loved talking with them actually. One day – when I was a young teen – changed my view of older people forever. We as a church youth group often went to nursing homes to sing to, talk to and spend time with seniors. One particular visit we were given a list of a few leading questions that would allow the person we were talking with to tell us the stories of their life – an event I eventually repeated with students in the youth group I was pastoring. My friend Peter and I met these two sweet older ladies who were roommates. To this day… more than 25 years later… I remember their names: Haddie Zerbel and Jean Egger. Most likely they are both sitting with Jesus and reading this right now as I type it. Those beautiful women changed my world. I listened to the wisdom of their stories and heard the pain of their losses. They became family to me. When I was feeling overwhelmed with life or just needed a friend I would go sit with Haddie & Jean. Serving them just meant showing up and being present. They didn’t need much more than that. I doubt they even knew the deepest extent of their impact on me. I’m not sure I did either… then. But now as I write to you about them… I certainly do.
Then there came the days when my Grandma McQueary began experiencing her battle with Alzheimer’s. Eventually she had to be in a 24-hr. care facility due to her worsening physical and mental state. We were living in Michigan at the time – at least a two and a half hour drive away. I saw her almost every month (sometimes more) for the final years leading up to her death. I am so grateful that I was close enough to do that. She probably didn’t even know who I was some of the time, but it was ok because in those moments she was still teaching me who I was becoming.
So, are the details of dealing with aging people difficult and varied? Yes, and so are the responses. No two situations are exactly alike because they involve individuals and families and finances that are different. What anyone in any circumstance can do is value the people in your life that are aging. Don’t just give money. Give yourself. Give time. Those are the most valuable commodities anyway. They’re the first excuses we use for why we can’t. They will never forget it. And you will be a better person for the effort and your time more productive.