Friday, May 18, 2012

My Prayer For Old People

Last station nursing home by ulrichkarljoho

I visited a friend at a nursing home today, and cried all the way home. It wasn't that my friend was suffering so badlyshe is in pain and discomfort but has a beautiful spirit about it allit was because of the other people I saw in there, the people with nothing but their own souls.

Their minds are gone.

Their bodies are deteriorating.

Last station nursing home by ulrichkarljoho
They have lost the things that we think make us human: beauty, talent, promise, wit, creativity, future

And what remains? Their heart and soul, quietly beating while the rest of us bustle around and try to care for them, wondering what on earth we'll do with them until they finally give up and die. And the truly frightening thing? Many of us—perhaps most of us—will be there too, one day. I might be one of those women in a sanitized hallway, crouched in my wheelchair, gray hair thin and wispy, draped in smelly old clothes, eyes glazed, drooping lips and toothless gums smacking together in horrible incoherence.

I've learned to love old people, even the decrepit ones. My dear friend Mr. Byron and his wonderful wife, Esther, taught me that even those who are strange-looking, unintelligible, and seemingly worthless have so much to offer. They are brimming with life, the life that goes beyond externals, the same life that burns in the heart of a helpless baby who can't even crawl. They don't want our pity, they need our love

How I wish that more people would be willing to see that life, to recognize it as a piece of the breath of God, and embrace it. Too often we shrink away from the different, the "other," the confusing or frightening. It's about time that we face the facts and decide to treat the young, middle-aged, and elderly as what they truly are: the beloved children of God Almighty. Why do we keep old, sick people in sanitized halls? Why do we pay outrageous sums for round-the-clock caretakers? Why do we reject sacrifice in the name of convenience? Why do we relegate them to a part of the world where they can do no harm, and just let their souls crumble away to dust along with the rest of them? It's about time I get over my inhibitions and look at old people through the Lord's eyes. It's about time that I start praying in earnest for their hope, their joy, and their salvation. 

Last station nursing home, a photo by ulrichkarljoho on Flickr.
Last station nursing home, a photo by ulrichkarljoho on Flickr.


  1. This was well written Abby! I agree with you completely and yet to my shame, there are days that I shy away from the elderly and make the decision to not see them as special and unique people that God created for a purpose. Your post was convicting.

    One of my grandfathers passed away a few years ago and he had alzheimers, both of my grandmothers have severe dementia and yet my other grandfather who passed away last month was sharp right up until the end. (He was just unable to communicate very well.) Seeing them in these positions is hard and yet I know that they are still people even if they are harder to have conversations with. God commanded us to care for them along with the orphans, the widows, - those in need.

    When we visit one of my grandmothers that recently moved to an assisted living house, we always make sure to include the other residents in our conversations, or at least smile and say hello. They need that genuine, loving smile that brightens our days just as much as we do.

    Great post Abby. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    In Him,

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Devin! It is so uncomfortable sometimes, even when you genuinely love an old person, to not shy away. I guess it's because they remind us of our own humanity, of the fact that death is coming and there is no way to avoid it.

      It's wonderful that you include other residents whenever you visit your grandmother. I'm sure that they absolutely love it.

      God Bless,

  2. There is something so amazing about being with older people. The ones that are able to tell you things will tell you so many stories and so much wisdom they have learned, and even the unappealing and incapable ones teach us so much about God's grace and challenge us to love unconditionally. Thanks for sharing this post - your loving heart encourages me!

    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, Christianna! I wish there were more girls like you in the world :)

  3. Older people are fascinating! Like you were saying, too often they are neglected and left to "exist" in the abysmal platitude of nursing facilities (I don't want to call them homes). Unfortunately, I think this trend is only going to advance because there will simply be too many of them to care for. The population of the earth very recently reached 7 billion, and it is projected that in 2045, there will be around 9 billion! That's possibly in our lifetime! The following stats are from the Department of Health and Human Services:

    "The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons."

    Also, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the top four occupations with the largest numeric growth from 2010-2020 will be registered nurses, retail salespersons, home health aides, and personal care aids. There's a 17% change for retail salespersons, but a startling 69% and 70% change for health and personal care aides. Scary!

    In America especially, it's becoming more and more unrealistic for people, who have children and lives of their own, to provide the elderly with the attention they once could. The time and resources just won't be there for everyone.

    I don't know of a solution to this. I suppose humanity will just have cross the bridge when it gets there, but in the meantime, I'm advocating contraception and mindfulness. I'll leave the romanticizing to you, Abby :-)

    1. Those are some startling figures! I think that the real problem lies in people entrusting their parents and grandparents to the government and "nursing facilities" instead of caring for them. I'm not blaming those people--there are a million extenuating circumstances--but that trend has caused a breakdown in our society. If families stuck together then maybe we wouldn't have so many people "draining the system."

      Goodness, Levi, I really can't imagine living inside your head. Thanks for letting me romanticize ;)

  4. Inside my head is a similar dream for posterity, and without people like you, well...I couldn't be optimistic ;-)


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