Growing Old Gracefully

This week I took a short trip with my youngest daughter flying from Michigan to North Carolina to see a granddaughter graduate from college.  What a great time I had not only seeing this granddaughter graduate, but also seeing my oldest daughter and all of her family.

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For my daughter and I it was a learning experience.

Many years of my life I have spent teaching, helping, caring for my children and grandchildren.  For many years I was the one in the kitchen fixing a Thanksgiving meal, playing on the floor with the grandchildren, being the “helper” for the family.

Slowly as my children have grown up and had children of their own I have taken less responsibility and they have done the cooking, the “helping.”

But still I saw myself as a strong, independent woman who tried to be a source of help and encouragement to my family.  I certainly could take care of myself and did not need help.

But this trip revealed to me that this old body of mine is not what it used to be and it is now my time to accept help from others.

We drove into the airport at Detroit.  My daughter asked for a wheelchair for me to get to our gate.  But my pride insisted I did not need that.  I could walk.  Being patient with me my daughter walked along with me and had to slow her steps down to accommodate me as I struggled to keep going.

By the time we got to our gate I was in so much pain.  My legs just refused to cooperate and let me walk long distances.  My poor daughter was faced with the task of insisting that “Mom, you need a wheelchair when we land in Greensboro.  You can’t walk that far again.”

How I so wanted to say that was not true.  I was still young enough to get through an airport on my own.  But my aching legs told me I needed to listen.

So – at Greensboro we were met by a kind man with a wheelchair who wheeled me all the way through the airport to the area where my daughter rented a car for our time in Greensboro.

Throughout the trip it became clear that I needed help – getting in and out of the bus that drove us from terminal to terminal, carrying my bag, walking up stairs.  At the graduation both my daughters and son-in-love were there to give me support as I climbed up the stairs in the coliseum where the graduation ceremony was held.

So my daughters and I began to navigate that journey

  • for my daughters – how do we help our mother without making her feel stupid or incapable of doing for herself?
  • for me – how do I accept the help I need with grace and thankfulness for their love and offer of help?

It’s a journey we will have to continue to navigate.  I need to continue to do for myself all I can, but I also must accept that the time has come to accept some help.

There were a a few moments of frustration as I tried to tell my daughter where I saw a parking spot or give advice on something where I really knew what I was talking about, but she seemed to ignore me.

Then I had to laugh as I told her:

“I got mad because you didn’t listen to me and I knew what I was saying was right, but then I had to think why would she listen when I just ordered a drink, walked over to the dispenser to get my cup and had to ask her what size drink I just ordered”

We both shared the laugh.

I’ve still got lots of life and enjoyment ahead of me, but as I continue to age, I pray that I will age gracefully and be a person of joy and laughter and be humble enough to accept the help I need.

Not sure who actually wrote this, but today it seems appropriate:

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient.  If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to walk, to eat, to read. to dress yourself.

When my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

 

I hope this post does not sound like I’m ready to “kick the bucket.”  There are still roads trips to take, friends to meet, flowers to plant, much more life to enjoy.  Just recognizing it may be time to walk a little slower and be a little less prideful in my own ability.

The Good Book says “pride goes before a fall.”  Now I realize this was not about actually walking but I had to laugh as I thought – “In my case too much pride to accept help just might mean a fall for me.”

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Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!

 

 

 

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

The Power and Magic of Music

Every other Friday I go to a local assisted living facility and play for 30-40 minutes.  I play all kinds of music.  Old songs like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “You are My Sunshine” get them singing along with me.  They love to listen so songs from old movies like “The Sound of Music” and “Exodus.”  The program is always ended with some old hymns, songs that only those over 60 even know.

Over the years as I have played in these facilities, perhaps the most requested song is “In the Garden.”  The song speaks of being with Christ in the garden but as I play it I envision the beautiful garden I had at my former home.

As I play for the residents of these facilities, some are very alert, sing along and truly enjoy the music.  Others are clearly struggling with physical or mental difficulties, and do not sing along but they clearly enjoy the music.  Then there are the few who do not seem to have any idea where they are or what is going on sometimes falling asleep as I play.

Yet I find those are the ones who are the greatest blessing to me when they do respond to the music.

Years ago my husband and I did a service at a nursing home in Edwardsville, IL.  One woman would be wheeled in by one of the nursing staff.  She sat with her head slumped to one side and appeared to have no idea we were even there.  But one Sunday we sang the old gospel hymn “There is Power in the Blood.”  Instantly this woman sat up, smiled and began singing along perfectly in a clear and beautiful voice.  As soon as the song was over, she slumped back down in her chair and appeared to once again have no idea where she was or what was going on.  Seeing this we sang that song every week and she always “came to life” at the sound of that song.

Today I saw that same thing happen.  One lady in the music room appeared to be totally unaware of her surroundings.  When I began singing “In the Garden” she came to life and sang in a VERY loud voice.

My heart sang with joy as I left the music center at the end of the program and headed down the hall to the front door.  She was sitting in the hallway just outside her room and I could hear her all the way down the hall as she continued to sing in a VERY loud voice “In the Garden.

There is magic in music.

Where words leave off, music begins.” 
― Heinrich Heine

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” 
― Alphonse de Lamartine

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” 
― Martin Luther

I Can See! I Can See!

Last week I had surgery on my right eye removing a cataract and inserting a new lens in my eye.  Doctor told me that my vision would be much improved but I had no idea how much better I would see.

I have always been near-sighted and it was getting to the point that I had to hold my Bible or any book almost to my face to see.  What a surprise that I can now hold my book at arm’s length and see without any difficulty.  What is even better is how bright the colors look now.

I opened my Bible and was surprised to see how white the pages were – a bright, bright white.  All these years I thought the pages were a dingy gray.  A pair of pajamas I have had for over three years now I see are a beautiful shade of grey and black.  All this time I thought they were a dingy brown and black.

In two weeks I go back to get my left eye fixed and I can hardly wait to see how bright everything will be then.

With the cloudy cataracts it was like looking through a dirty window.  Now someone has come and cleaned the window and left it sparkling.

As I thought about the change in my vision, I realized this did not happen over night.  Once my vision was great but slowly over the years as I aged, the lens in my eyes became cloudy.  It was such a slow process I did not realize it until it got so bad I had difficulty seeing.  Night driving became an impossibility as I could hardly see in the dark and the lights from the cars blinded me with the large halos around the headlights.

It became harder for me to read and I could not distinguish between many colors.  I bought clothes that I thought matched only to have my husband and children tell me they were not the same color.

Still, I did not realize just how bad my sight had become until after this surgery.  The colors are so beautiful and bright.  I am looking forward to all the spring flowers as I will have both eyes corrected just about the time everything starts blooming.

This has caused me to think about my own spiritual sight.  I made a committment to the Lord as a young child.

You can read my story at:

My Commitment

But I have to ask myself – over the years has my spiritual sight become weaker?  Have I become comfortable in my walk with God and lost any of that initial enthusiasm and joy?

I also look at our nation and wonder how far we have slipped from the principles that once we held dear.  As our culture becomes more secular have we also slowly become blind and accepting of things we once would have rejected.

I realize times and cultures change and just because we used to do or believe something does not mean it was right.  As we grow in knowledge over the years our view and understanding should also grow.   But my prayer is that the church has not slowly lost its spiritual eyesight without realizing it.

I encourage you to do a checkup on your spiritual sight?  Do you need some cataracts removed?

 

Giving Only What I Can Afford

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow woman who placed two little coins in the offering box in the Temple.  Compared to the much larger amounts they had seen others give earlier, her offering seemed like nothing.  Yet Jesus pointed out that they had given of their abundance while her offering consisted of all she had – a much greater sacrifice and gift.

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Jesus explained that the rich people had given “what they can easily afford” while she had given “her whole living.”

This has me thinking – do I only give what I can afford or do I give my all?

When we talk about giving in relationship to God, we usually think of money and in this instance it was money that was being discussed.  And certainly I have to admit when it comes to financial giving, I certainly use a lot of my income on myself.  As I look at my checkbook, I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford to the work of God.

Giving financially to God is more than just giving to my local church, although it does include that.  But there are so many other areas where I need to share my abundance with others:

  • helping teachers and schools with supplies
  • buying shoes for children from families who are struggling financially
  • buying a meal for a homeless person
  • taking food to the local food pantry
  • many non-profit organizations like American Cancer Society, St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the list goes on and on

My first thought is I do not have an abundance financially.  But I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford.  Am I really making any personal sacrifices giving up things I don’t really need, only want, to help others whose finances are much less than mine.

But giving to God is much more than just giving of my finances.  There is my time and my talent.

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How much of my time do I spend doing things I want to do, things which will help me or my family?  How much of my time do I spend reaching out to others.

This was really brought home to me this past month.  We just moved to a new state.  Just a couple of days after moving in with boxes still everywhere our doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor coming over to say welcome.  My first thought was “how nice!”  I invited her in and we began getting acquainted.  After 30 minutes had passed and she showed no sign of leaving, I must confess I so wanted her to leave.  After all, I had boxes to unpack and a long, long list of things that must be taken care of when you move from one state to another:  new car title and license, new driver’s license, new car insurance,  and my list went on and on.

Finally she left and I told my husband I was worried that she would be a nuisance.  She was elderly and clearly lonely.  She also repeated herself several times.  I dreaded the time she might take up coming over to visit.

Then, I remembered what Jesus said and I felt the Spirit’s conviction as I realized I have an abundance of time.  My husband and I are both retired, we only have one daughter and her family living close by.  We have lots of time to enjoy.

So – will I be willing to give up some of my time – my abundance of time – to spend time with this neighbor – listening to the same story and showing interest as if it was the first time I had heard it?  Do I really need to spend all my time just doing what I like to do, just enjoying myself or do I need to give my all as Jesus would have me do?

So I have determined to visit this woman every week, to take an hour or two to sit and listen to her stories, to make her feel important to me.  To give out of my abundance.

 

 

 

 

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

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Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?