As I strolled in just yesterday those who are mobile were going into the gathering room where we hold services and others were being assisted by the efficient team of recreation staff. Meeting me upon my arrival was an elderly gentleman who has rudimentary english, as it is not his first language, and he was so happy to see me there for service. I was the recipient of a hearty hug and a kiss on the cheek. That would be followed by him telling me he was so happy to see me and an apology "my english not so good." I replied that since I spoke not a word of Russian no apology was ever necessary. He is a regular to the service when I go and his enthusiasm and that of others to have someone come and spend time, do a service and sing familiar hymns is often the highlight of the day for so many of them. Then on the other hand there is a lady who also attends regularly and her joy at sharing worship knows no bounds and continuously says I love being with you, finishes the visit with a hug and once more saying I love being with you.
I also realize that many find such facilities sad or depressing and while there are many sad sights there to behold I prefer to look at moments like these and know that for a short time someones day has been made a little brighter because they had a chance to worship, to see a somewhat familiar face,and share a little joy together. I freely admit that I receive far more than I can ever offer.
Several years ago now I asked a fellow priest if they would take a service for me at such a home and they were less than complimentary in their thoughts on such a ministry. Most don't know who you are, where they are so why bother? That comment was followed by my usual sarcasm "one of these days it might be me in a place like this, and in this condition and I can only hope that some other priest will come in laugh , joke, and pray to brighten my day if only for a few minutes." The comment still saddens me greatly. How may of us get caught up in the fact that we may not be remembered and write off so many people who are in need of a few moments of joy, shared worship, a touch to remind them that they are valued. There is much more joy to be found here than some may realize
- Henry who sang a fabulous bass when no one knew he could even talk...I never knew he couldn't
- The Retired Priest of many years who refused communion from so many but since he thought we were related it might just be ok
- The competition of two members from an adult day program for me to stand beside them as they sang hymns with gusto
- The person with severe dementia who shone brightly as she entered into the story I'll love you forever by Robert Munch and determined that she would not want a child like that
- A former news paper buyer (I was the paper carrier) who thought I had come to take him home from the personal care home and whose favourite hymn was All things bright and beautiful and if we were singing it at church today he would gladly come
- The countless numbers who say thank you for coming to pray with us today and taking time out of your busy day
- The joy of Boris because I came to see him
- The sincerity of Sandy to say I love being with you
- those who gift you with the opportunity to be with them at the end of life, to pray with them and to offer what little comfort and consolation that can be had
The last verse of the poem An Old Lady's Poem says this...
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ....all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, open and see,
...Not a crabby old woman; look closer ...see ME!!
When next we meet people in those personal care homes who seem forgotten and somewhat lost think of the rewards and memories that they continue to offer and don't brush them or the facility aside without looking at the young soul that still dwells within after all we will one day be there, too!
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40