Monday, May 30, 2011

Lessons in Life: from the Elderly

For those of you who do not know, I work in the wonderful and exciting world of assisted living.

I represent two incredible communities in my town and have the opportunity to spend much of my time with people over 80 years old. Their outlook on life is so incredibly similar to mine and yet so different at the same time.

It’s an amazing reminder that we are all the same and we are all unique.

While perpetually “waiting for some inspiration” to write my next blog I found myself working on some mailers for work and listening to the group of residents come in from an outing. The conversation was as follows:

Resident #1: “It is so chilly today! I hate cold weather!”
Resident #2: “Don’t worry, it’s almost June. It will get warm soon!”
Resident #1: “Oh, I hate warm weather too.”

It just made me smile!

I started thinking about all the many, many things I have learned from my residents and their families.

I have reflected today on two specific lessons that I would like to share with you today.

#1 Don’t complain about your life around elderly people. Trust me, they had it worse.

After I had my son prematurely and he had his hospital stay in the NICU for fifteen days, my heart ached for months. The extreme pain of losing this amazing birth process that I had been dreaming about my whole life was shot to heck. Bed rest was terrible. Leaving the hospital without my baby boy was by far the most heart wrenching experience I have ever been through and I wish it on no one.

Due to necessity, I had returned to work after six weeks, thankful that my baby boy was with my husband and that my job was allowing me to work from home twice a week for the following six months.

Most of the residents had sauntered in and out of my office for the first few days asking about Braylon and myself. I was simply keeping it light and not going into any of the details.

One resident decided to stay and share her experience with me.

Her child had also been born prematurely, but in a time where medicine as exists today was not a reality. The doctor had sent her daughter home simply so that she could die at home and not in a hospital. Children born prematurely in those days simply did not survive, or if they did, it was by miracle alone.

Her tiny baby girl could only drink ½ an ounce at a time (over a two hour period) without choking and extreme respiration. She would stay up around the clock nursing her so she would get enough to eat.

Oh, and by the way, that daughter was daughter #4. And her husband was away at war. And her family lived far away. And she lived in Minnesota. To stay up all day and all night she would fill buckets of snow and sit with her feet in them until her feet hurt so bad she was forced to stay awake due to the pain.

Her baby girl is 45 years old now.

And if THAT isn’t a mother’s love, I don’t know what is!

As flawed an experience of having my baby in the NICU was, in perspective it was a God send. My child had access, regardless of insurance, to some of the best technology, education, care, and medicine in the world. I was able to come and go as I pleased (mostly come) while allowing the caring and beautiful nurses to ensure my baby’s best start possible.

I had my feet in buckets of snow exactly zero times.

It was, by comparison, a dream.

I shut up after that and from then on.

It was a lesson to look at my blessings and not my burdens.

Because I was incredibly blessed with a healthy and beautiful baby boy.

When elderly people say that they walked to school up-hill both ways, most people laugh, but I am not so sure that they are exaggerating.

#2 The Bible is not purely historical document, but it is a living document as well.

Many people are quick to dismiss the Bible as simply a book of rules that worked for some bizarre ancient civilization, and ergo not applicable to the “drastically different” life that we live today.

While I believe not only that the Bible is a living document in the way that it was written (by God to transcend generations), working with the elderly has given me an additional perspective.

Human kind at it's most basic core hasn’t really varied all that much from generation to generation!

In other words, considering the distinctly polar opposite lives that I have lived in comparison to our residents, if THEY and I still have similar core values and hopes and dreams and desires in common, then I do not believe it is a stretch to say that all humans in all times have basically the same core as well. I am not really sure exactly how it all works, and I dare to say I am not meant to know.

But, I do love to reflect on the simple beauty of the promise that that all humankind’s fears and hopes in the truest of forms are simply the result of being uniquely hand crafted by a loving and miraculous God.

“Listen to me... I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you.” Isaiah 46: 3-5

I think this verse is not only talking about “you” as “you,” but “you” as “humankind” as well. He was there in the beginning and He will be with us through all our ages.

So…that pretty much rocks.

1 comment:

  1. um. okay definately made me cry with the story of the little baby that one of your residents literally gave life to in many ways. beautiful. I was talking to Matt's grandpa, Opa, one day about a while ago about how hard it is to find a job these days. he continued on to tell me that when he first immigrated to America and moved to San Diego...he'd walk over 20 miles ONE WAY each day to turn in applications and find a job. Then when he did, he'd walk about 15 miles one way each day to work that job. We think we have it hard? we drive around to a few retail shops and call it a day. It's amazing what you can accomplish with hard work <3