There are some meetings that are clearly amusing. Like when the family gathers for Christmas dinner, and the grandchildren start singing “Jingle Bells.” Pure joy and happiness. But some meetings are not fun. In fact, some meetings can be downright serious. It happened again to me a few weeks ago, as a volunteer minister at a local nursing home.
Let me explain: Each week, I have a ministry with the residents, and serve “on call” during the week. The joy of laughing, talking, crying, and praying with these delightful senior adults is amazing. They squeeze my hand, hug my neck, and beg me to come back next week. Those that can, tell me about their families, former occupations, funny stories, and favorite candy. That’s the good part.
The rough part is that first meeting with the family when they bring their elder to the facility to stay. Mom or Dad have become physically or mentally unable to stay in their own home, or even with their children. The family decides that the best place for their loved one is in a Senior Care facility. So, there we sit in the living room with several adult children who have brought one of their parents to live. Sometimes, family members are so distraught, they have to step outside to collect themselves. It’s emotional.
Over the years, while ministering in Senior Living facilities in various parts of the country, there is one thing that always happens. In an amazing role reversal, where once the parent bragged on their children, now it is the child bragging on the parent! While patting the arm of her 86 year-old mother, the daughter might say, “Pastor, Mom used to teach Sunday School, and lead the children’s choir at Christmas. She is a wonderful Christian and taught me about the Bible.” Or maybe the adult son may say of his 91 year-old father, “Pastor, Dad was the lead boiler technician at the automobile plant, and received 15 merit awards for commendable service.”
I get it. Leaving a parent at the Senior Living facility is tough. A child may deal with the question, “Am I being mean to do this?” “Is there a better way?” There may have been disagreements between the siblings about this decision, but now that the decision has been made, what next? And so, we gather in the easy chairs, knowing that in a few moments, the adult child will leave their honored elder alone for the first night.
After the facility staff has given their statements, and all the questions have been answered, the convener looks to me for some final words. Often, I will share Psalm 23. Even unchurched families seem to appreciate the message “for Thou art with me.” Then I share a few words of commendation to the staff, and affirmation to the family, followed by prayer.
This Christmas, visit a Senior Living facility, and show love and respect to the residents. If a family member is there, understand that they feel many emotions, and truly need validation and support. And take a moment to express appreciation to the facility care givers who serve the residents 24-7. Be a Christmas blessing.
Leviticus 19:32 ESV - “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”