Archive | July, 2012


8 Jul

My wife and I recently went hunting for an elderly lady we used to know about five years ago. She once lived in an adjacent area and had an unusually magnificent backyard, complete with a large pond and a creek, rare plants and gorgeous trees. She had had a breakdown some years before and her doctor had advised her to garden if she wanted to recover mentally and physically. Her therapy turned out to be her legacy, at least for my wife and I. We took our engagement pictures in her pond in a flat bottomed boat and will always remember her as the lady who transformed her small suburban area into a small edenic paradise.

As we approached her house, however, we could tell that much had changed in the intervening years. Her front yard had been reduced to a few generic shrubs, and an SUV with some children’s toys decorated the driveway. My wife knocked at the door, and a young man came out to speak with us. We inquired about the elderly lady who once made the house so special and were told that his grandma no longer lived there. She had developed Alzheimers and his parents had put her in a local elderly residence. It was too much work to maintain her yard the way it was so they ‘simplified it.’ He gave us the name of the facility she was in now, and said it would be fine if we visited, although he was pretty sure she wouldn’t recognize us.

Sometimes directions aren’t my forte, especially when I’m internally musing about this David Livingstone book I’m reading while taking them (it’s a truism that I have a hard time multi-tasking), and we consequently visited several ‘old folks homes’ before we found the right one. When we did, we were ushered into the dining area through a security-coded door. We heard Maxine before we saw her. She had gained some weight, and looked as bright and chipper as always, and greeted my wife immediately when she saw her with the words, “Well there you are! and just as lovely as ever.” She embraced my wife warmly.

It proved to be a fleeting lucid moment, however. She spent the rest of the next hour and a half dialoging in the most conversational and sadly charming manner about a wide variety of unconnected subjects, often in the same sentence. We had a really nice visit for all of that, and it was probably the first she’d had in awhile. She confessed at one point to feeling sad before we came to visit but not being sure over what, but now feeling much better in her heart. We promised to visit again soon. She walked us to the door like it was her own place we remembered so well, and waited while the nurse punched the code into the security door. She smiled sweetly as she said her good-byes.

As we drove away I reflected on the experience.  The facility was well constructed, clean, tasteful and had a very nice courtyard (which incidentally was the sunning spot for one of the residents who had taken her clothes off.) The staff seemed mostly helpful, although there were a couple notable hard faces that made me wonder how gentle they were with their charges when visiting hours were finished. The niceties, however, could not mask the nature of the place – it was where people went to deteriorate, and then die. Or more accurately probably, it was a place people were sent to deteriorate and die. The living room was full of people who had reached their zenith and soon would set. Their work, their loves and hopes and aspirations all were mostly behind them. Their ability to influence others limited largely to the shells around them.

I reflected on this, and on the pertinency of some of the following wisdom.

“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Psalms 90:12

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Are you upset with your life, reader? Is it not much better than the hidden reality of the dementia ward?

Do not despair.  It is easy to find ourselves overcome with worries and anxieties, dissatisfied with our circumstances. But we are surrounded with blessings, as well. Where there is life there is hope. A living dog is better than a dead lion. And we have much to be thankful for. If you are reading this it means you are not in an old folks home, eating overcooked carrots and peas, with instant mash potatoes and talking madness.

Do you know the old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”? You can find it on many a website if you have never heard it. Give it a listen, and remember – There is a God, and He sent His Son for you. He loves you. Do not despair. Today is the day to live. Hope. Help others. Make your life a living sacrifice, and a legacy of good. And say, in hard times because of the love of God and the peace that He brings amidst the storm – It is well with my soul.