It’s a little hard to describe, how important encouraging people to connect with elders is to me. And how important my own connections are.
This past weekend my sisters and I hosted a celebration of gratitude for my recently-passed mother, her resident neighbors at the nursing home and the caregivers who loved her. What struck me more than anything was how appreciative the residents were.
To be honest, it took a little reprimanding from one resident, Anna Kirkey, to help me to see how important connecting can be. On the day after my mother passed, Anna asked me how everything was. For some reason, I chose to not mention my mother, and instead focused on the musical act who was entertaining that day, and said “Things are great, don’t you love this music?” She looked at me sternly and said “I’m gonna ask you again. How is everything?”. I decided to come clean and said to her, “My mother passed yesterday”. Anna replied, “I know, I wondered if you were gonna tell me.”
Jeez, did I think she needed to be shielded? Did I think she wouldn’t care? Or remember? Or……what?? I do not have a reasonable answer. I’m the person who always advocates forthcoming communication, yet here I was, thinking , oh, I don’t know, that she might not notice???
Now this old dog, who’s been writing and training and researching all this valuable information about the elder developmental stage of life, as well as the how’s and why’s respecting and honoring ALL stages is vital, is learning some new things about what that really means.
One of the things it means is that connecting with elders is a two way street. Had I gotten out of touch with this realization?
The engagement, participation and appreciation from these friends was so real, so honest, so heartwarming, I don’t think I’ll ever forget each of their personal sentiments. Anna thanked us with sincerity that was palpable, Les shed a tear as he talked about how much Fern meant to him. We all enjoyed the stories, the songs, the love.
My sisters and I were all exhausted by this point, as this was a few weeks after her first service at the funeral home. But that day we were filled with more love in our hearts than probably anyone else on planet earth!
Please, don’t make the same initial mistake I made with Anna, by thinking that including elders in all life has to offer isn’t a good idea. In this case, inclusion turned out to be better than just a good idea. It was profoundly expansive!