Monday, December 23, 2013
What goes around, comes around.
Every year we make the effort to don santa hats, pull out rumpled sheets of music, and make the rounds to the local shut-ins, group homes and nursing homes: caroling in our off key voices, loud and happy. We always bring the babies and honestly my favorite part is watching the faces of the elderly light up as they see the children smiling. "Oooh! Look at that one!" "She's so cute!"
Today we handed out sheets so the little old men and women sitting in their wheelchairs could join in. The 2 and 3 year old walked beside me as we gave music to each person, delighting each of the residents whether they could read or not. After singing and chatting, the kids helped me collect them again. Some of the elderly were demented and one woman did not want to give her paper back. Jay, the 2 year old, put his hand on her paper and uttered something unintelligible. The woman pulled the paper back and said in all seriousness, "You just took that woman's paper!" indicating the woman sitting next to her, "Why do you need mine?" The 9 year old sister stepped in and told her 2 year old brother with a cheery and happy voice, "It's okay Jay, she can keep it. We have lots more."
At the next place the woman we sang to was a parishioner at our church that we knew before she lost her memory. The kids can remember her making cookies for them when we would sing to her but now she can't even remember her own name. She cried as we sang and then said how sad she was she couldn't prepare something for us. Her smile came out when we told her how many times she had welcomed us and given us treats in the past and how much we wanted to sing for just her. I think at any stage in life it is amazingly special to have people come and want to see just you.
When I was a teenager my family "adopted" a little old brother and sister in their nineties. We started by just visiting to give them company and by the end of our friendship we were their caregivers, in charge of all their medical and financial business. Their lives impacted mine greatly because for the first time in my life I was exposed to aging and death so close together. As each reached the point of death, I saw how gracefully they went into the after life, especially Phillip who died surrounded by priests and non-family caregivers who loved him dearly. Neither ever married. Phillip had been outside of the country only once, and that was overseas during World War II. Imelda had left the state only once in her lifetime and that was as a girl to see the World's Fair. Even though these two had no children, I saw how God provided a family to love them in the very end when they no longer could rely on each other.
After Phillip died a friend of his came up to us at the funeral to tell us how Phillip had sat with others at their deathbeds, others who had no families. It filled me with warmth to hear this and I couldn't help but feel that we were in someway being used by God to give Phillip what he had given others: love at the very end. And that's how I feel when we go to the shut-ins, the sick and elderly in their homes, that someday that will be us and we will be blessed by the people who make the effort to see us. And even if it is once a year and it is only a handful of Christmas carols, I think I will like it very much.