Treasure the elderly in your life
Treasure the elderly in your life. Decline can set in so suddenly. Last week, I wrote about my 92-year-old mother’s decision to move into a retirement home. “She’ll know when it’s time,” we children had said. No kidding.
This past Sunday, she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, thinking she’d had a stroke. There was no stroke, but her blood pressure was so high, the machine in the ambulance didn’t have the capacity to read it. It was taken manually: 250/100.
I’m off work this week (March Break), and the last few days have been filled with appointments to see the doctor, the pharmacist, the retirement home, and the real estate agent. Confusion and fear have set in for my mom.
So sharp for so long
You might be thinking, “Well, she is 92 . . .” And while that is true, so is the fact that only two years ago, she was sharp enough to prepare and give this mini-sermon at church. And so is the fact that only 5 months ago, she officiated her grand-daughter’s wedding flawlessly.
And only one month ago, at the funeral of her sister (who lived to be 95), she moved us all. Mom was to read the 23rd Psalm. She slowly walked up to the front of the church, her arthritic knees hardly able to bend, and she looked at the Bible opened for her at the lectern.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” she began.
Then she looked up at the faces of loved ones gathered, and instead of reading it, she spoke it, never looking down at the words again – speaking as one who knew it to be true. I hope she still does.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul . . .”
Paring down possessions for the retirement home
When Mom and Dad moved from the family home to their condo 12 years ago, they were able to bring much of what they owned. We were amazed at how they managed to make their condo feel like the home of our growing up years. Paintings and photos on the walls; book shelves; figurines; china dishware; silverware; souvenirs from my parents’ travels in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia . . . It was not a “minimalist condo” – not by a long shot.
But Mom’s move to assisted living will be a different story. She’ll have one comfortable, small room, and my guess is that she’ll only be able to bring about 5% of her possessions with her. The rest will be divided among her children or given away. Yesterday, after the real estate agent had come over to assess the condo, I talked with Mom about what she thought she would choose to bring.
Mom’s choice: family photos
Answer? Family photos. (Those are her grandchildren and her great-grandchild – from several years ago – featured above.) I walked through the condo and considered how realistic it would be for her to bring all of the family photos she has on display – on the walls and set up on tables, desks, and ledges. Not very realistic.
“How would you feel about our putting some of the framed photos in nice photo albums?” I asked her.
No, that wouldn’t do.
“It might end up looking like photo-wallpaper, Mom,” I advised her.
That would be just fine.
The china, silverware, souvenirs, art work, books, figurines, chandelier, dining room set, living room set . . . She accepts that she’ll be letting go of almost all of it. Not an easy thing to think about – especially with regards to her beloved books. But a book shelf takes up wall space, and she’s made it clear that the walls are to be covered with family photos.
Anxiety about the transition to a seniors’ residence
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me . . .”
Mom is aware that her faculties are diminishing. “Ruthie, do you think I’m losing it?” she asked me two days ago. Such a heart-breaking question, but expressed with the philosophical outlook and curiosity she’s always had.
Mom is experiencing waves of anxiety through this unsettled time. I want so much for her to be moved and settled in her new home, so that she can feel stable and grounded again. But even as fear disturbs her, she remains grateful. “If I ever get muddled and can’t think of what to say, I can always say ‘Thank you’ – because somebody’s always helping me.”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .”
I’m glad that some friends of Mom’s who already live in the seniors’ residence will greet her and welcome her when she moves in. And I know that she will enjoy many and frequent visits once she’s settled in. As for her solitary times, she will likely enjoy them, as she always has. There is comfort in knowing that in her room, she’ll be surrounded by her most precious possessions.
It’s times like this that force a perspective on all of our work, our striving towards goals – even good goals, and our preoccupations. In the end, it’s so clear what is of value.
“. . . and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
If you could keep only 5% of your possessions, what would you choose? Do you have objects you value that have been passed on to you? Your comments are welcome.