Tuesday, December 4, 2007

...across the room to learn

For many years now I have tried to surround myself with friends and acquaintances of all ages.  I love the innocence of little children, exuberance of youth,  determination of young adults, level of comfort that comes from rubbing shoulders with people my own age, and the wisdom and wealth of experience the elderly have to offer.
One of my ways of including the elderly in my repertoire of friends is through my church.  I volunteer to be in touch with eight women every month to provide friendship and be their connection to our rather large church.  All eight women are single.  Some have been married and lost their spouses, while others have never been married.  What I find most interesting is how they have evolved through the years to become the women they are today.  They share their lives with me easily and I'm like a sponge when it comes to hearing people's life stories.  
During my years in the Funeral Service industry I especially enjoyed meeting people through the prearrangement process when we could take time to delve into their personal history. Another aspect of funeral service I enjoyed was the contact with the family members in the weeks following the funeral.  It was during those discussions (did you know people go back to their funeral director to talk about how they are doing?!  It's true!....although I have to admit I invited that interaction much to the chagrin of my boss!) that I learned to differentiate between those who seemed to think their lives were now over and those who determined to make a new life for themselves.   Over the years, I witnessed the result of the choices they made.  I saw how destructive wrong choices can be and how rewarding the often hard work of the right choices are.  After my mother died my father told me that the easiest for him would have been to hole up at home.  He had determined to learn to live alone though so he took steps to do that.   Today he is an emotionally, mentally and physically healthy man.  The room must have seemed huge to him, but he knew he had to walk across and immerse himself in life and living.  I'm sure he and many others like him could write a book on how to do that.  We have so much to learn from the elderly in our lives.  This Christmas Season might be a good time to take that walk across the room to befriend that elderly person in your corner of the world.  Do not be surprised when you are the one doing all the benefiting!
Keep Walking!
Elayne  

5 comments:

Jobina said...

So true! Elderly people have a lot to offer to the world and yet we so easily brush them off. I know I've been guilty of not making time in my life for people that I know who are much older than I am. In Mennville it was so different because our whole community was the church. We regularly hung out with people who were in totally different stages of life than us. We learned so much from each of them and were amazed by what they accomplished and the way they saw the world. I'm so glad you have those lovely people in your life!

Michele said...

So funny that Jobina and I were just talking about this the other day. I love the stories and advice the elders around me have to offer. I think I get more out of my conversations with people older than me than with anyone else. Perhaps it's because they have the patience to deal with my crazy personality long enough to have a conversation!

Thanks for the blog, Mom!

Nicki said...

Your note made me think of my friend John who passed away 3 years ago this December on the 21st. He is always close to my heart especially this time of year. I met him through one of the young woman I used to support and we would visit a care home once a week. I had intended this weekly routine to be beneficial for her but because of her I would have never met John. John had never been married or close to it, his only sister lived in a care facility in Australia and they rarely had the opportunity to speak. The rest of his family had passed on many years earlier. Before John moved into the care facility he was known for his daily walks through downtown Sidney BC visiting with shop owners and bringing small gifts of candy and giving people a routine hello that they could count on everyday.

Once he was no longer able to look after himself he moved into a facility a few miles outside of Sidney. It was far enough away that his visitors became fewer and fewer and once I met him he had not been for a drive outside the facility in over 2 years and went months without visitors. He was an exact opposite of me and many years older but I had been going through a very lonely time in my life and we very easily found friendship in each other. We only had the opportunity to go for a drive twice but we did go for lots of walks around the home sometimes talking about his favorite flowers or simple stories about his past but often we would just sit together quietly and at peace.

Three Christmas' ago this year John got very sick with a flu that was going around the home and he passed away. We had only been friends for just over a year but I learned so much him - especially how to be with myself.

I always found this last piece to John's life perfect. He was buried at a Veterans cemetery in Victoria where there are very few trees but he was placed at the base of this incredible 100 foot cedar tree that stands alone.

Perhaps I need my own blog! Thank you for opening up this space Auntie Elaine, I have been reduced to tears and have written this with blurry eyes. I have no idea how to explain in words who he was to me. Living in Victoria on my own I hold very dear to me those who I have become close to. It was so nice to think about him again and remember how much he meant to me. And thank you for inspiring me with this place to do just that.

Mark said...

Mom: Awesome, a blog, I am glad for you! I look forward to hearing about your thoughts and adventures (and maybe some pictures too?)

Nikki: Thanks for sharing your story, it was very touching. It sounds like John was a good man . . .

Rayna said...

Thank you for the reminder - I enjoy spending time with elderly people and learning from their experiences - just have not taken the time to do so in the past while. Need to get back on this.