Loving the Elderly

DSCN0410BMy 97-year-old mother was in and out of hospitals, and getting ready to meet the Lord face-to-face. The family was getting ready for another big change; and as is often the case, the family wasn’t able to address every detail. We needed assistance. (The picture of mother and me was taken when she was 95.)

Elsa Anderson was one of mother’s care-givers. She and I discussed our purpose in life for a while, and she said that God had given her 54 talents – that she knows of anyway. Caring for people near the end of life is a talent she cherishes the most. Elsa said, “I love being with these dear folks and sharing God’s love with them. But it isn’t always the elderly who get blessed: many times as I reach out to them, I receive the blessing.”

This reflects the attitude and gifting of a friend in New Mexico.

Rev. Thomas Kearns, chaplain at the Las Cruces Good Samaritan Retirement Community in New Mexico, said, “Many times you go to a hospital to minister to someone with the intent of praying for healing, for comfort for the patient and family, and also ready with scripture to share God’s word. But your ministry is, also, to be there – what I call ‘the ministry of presence’. Even if I don’t say a thing, my mere presence often provides emotional healing to the people.” I agree.

Elsa employs that concept. Her mere presence often provides a type of healing for the families. It’s obvious that she loves her patients, and – in this case – loved my mother.

The word “love” is used in many ways. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: I love my cat (dog, horse, turtle, whatever). I love my house. I love apple pie and ice cream. I love my country. What else? Oh yes: I love my wife and I love God. The meaning of love is based on context.

But when we think of loving our elderly relatives, friends, or citizens, we think of not just those who are infirm, disabled, or handicapped. We include those in their upper years who may not be able to fend for themselves in some ways.

The briefest description of loving or caring for the elderly comes from a book bytRIALB Wm. G. Justice titled “Training Guide for Visiting the Sick.” Mr. Justice, referring to all the elderly, whether sick or not, said, “The purpose is to oversee the care of those who are hospitalized, sick, shut in, or are in some way in need of care; and to assure they have their needs met to the best of our ability.”

Rev. Gary Kroah, retired minister living in Siloam Springs, agrees with Mr. Justice. At one point in a discussion, Gary said, “Just because they are elderly and cannot come to church, we cannot ignore them. They are still a vital part of church and of our community. It is our privilege to continue loving them. Jesus loves them, and we are effectively the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to them.” I add a hearty amen.

But loving the elderly comes with a price, and we had to differentiate between mother’s best interests and our emotional needs. I definitely do not believe in euthanasia, and I won’t discuss my mother’s condition; but I will say this: at 97 years of age and the condition she was in, it would actually be a loving act to allow her to go home to be with Jesus. She will also be with her parents, my father, and one of my sisters … and multi-millions of others in heaven.

With her body trying to shut down, I believe it is neither loving nor merciful to use every modern technological means that’s available to keep her body alive. Rather, it is loving to let her know how much we love her, but that we also release her to “go home” to be with Jesus.

Does it hurt us to do that? Yes, it does; and we knew we would miss her. But is it loving her? Yes, it is; for where she was bedridden, could not communicate, and her body trying to shut down with several terminal maladies, she would be well, healed, strong, and vibrant in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died” (NLT).

Mom experienced her final graduation on November 11, 2016; but we’ll see mom again when it’s our turn to graduate.

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