Many of these women and men have downsized as their own large yards became frustrating every time health took a dip or travel beckoned, so moving to a smaller house and/or a maintained community is sensible. And the church grounds benefit because these folks and others gather in fellowship to plan, finance, plant, feed, water, weed, work, maintain and enjoy grounds that become more delightful every year. (Last year a chime tower was added with the most delightfully gentle chimes.)
I sometimes wonder, as I see them with dirt on their fingers and perspiration driving the good stopping point for the day, if they realize how blessed they are. For I meet too many people, frustrated by the losses imposed with time and compromised health, who become depressed or angry, feeding fear for their tomorrows and resentful of what they have lost.
But I believe, having observed closely how choice plays a role in attitude (at least as much as attitude plays a role in choice), that where there is breath there is capacity for purpose. And I don't see mean-spiritedness or resentment as an appropriate purpose for any one.
So I'd like to share a snapshot of some people who blessed me even as their worlds were constricting. My mother was blinded by a combination of macular degeneration and treatment for CoPD which eventually landed her in a nursing home. It was a very nice nursing home as such things go and she was purposefully grateful for that. She said she intended to live out her life with all the oomph she had, seeing no point in vegetating in a pool of misery for the remainder of her time here, no matter how long that might be. She was kind to CNAs and RNs, fellow residents, cleaning staff, volunteers, and even the chaplain, who she felt needed encouragement because her job was so challenging. She was a blessing with every labored breath. We miss her still.
I had the great blessing of being a regular visitor to a woman of faith who had slipped pretty far down the Alzheimer's slope. Her own children did not live in the area and, as is often the dilemma faced by families, were torn for some time between uprooting their mom in ways that would leave her without the faithful support of her church family and an array of friends or transplanting her closer to themselves where she would likely be very confused for the rest of her days. It was tricky, getting to know this delightful lady, because when I first met her, 5 years a widow, she was still gently wondering why her beloved husband was so long away on business. But she taught me so much, because she was unfailingly kind and tender to the staff (and the staff often gets very little of that), other residents and anyone she met. Memory lapses or no, she was gentle to remind me that I needed to take more time to enjoy life and rush less. She shared happy memories on balmy days sitting under the trees in front of her communal home, speaking of her rural childhood and raising children in a beach community. She befriended any new resident within her purview as she cheerfully and safely roamed the confines of the nursing home.
In prison ministry I have been blessed to meet women who have found the best kind of freedom while behind prison walls and are working everyday to grow and strengthen their faith, looking towards the day of their return to their families with healing as their goal.
I remember reading somewhere the observations that, if Christians are correct and we live "10,000 years" (eternally) we should pay more attention to how we are drifting, because it is so painful to watch someone grow more angry, resentful, unhappy and generally miserable over 80 years if they don't choose instead to embrace gratitude, joy, healing and hope.
So, how are you drifting today?