I was young, an early teen, when I first saw the picture. My friend Peggy, my aunt’s sister, had a framed picture in her home of an elderly lady, mouth open, neck cocked to the side. When I first saw the picture, I was afraid. She looked ancient, near death. Her hair boasted the whitest white, her eyes distant.
“She was my grandmother,” Peggy said. There was such affection, such love in her voice that I couldn’t reconcile it with the picture of the woman near death. I wondered if I could love a woman so frail, or if I’d run out of the room, afraid.
As days continued, I heard a few stories from Peggy’s family about this woman, this mother, this grandmother. Oh how well she was loved. And deep down I wanted that kind of love, a family surrounding me even when I lost my abilities, even when I couldn’t “do” things.
That’s what love is. Loving folks no matter what. Speaking of them in reverence. Dignifying them even when dignity flees. It reminds me of my friend Missy Buchanan who speaks to elderly people and writes books for them.
Two days ago, I listened to a caregiver on NPR. Her sacrifice for her ailing mother moved me to tears as I drove down the road, hearing the love in her voice, the pain of caring for a woman who had lost her mind to Alzheimers. She served. She loved. She burned out. She sacrificed.
In a culture that obsesses about productivity and disregards the wisdom that comes with age, folks like Peggy, Missy and this sweet woman remind me just how important it is to love all folks, especially those who have walked more miles than we have. They need our love, our affection, our devotion.
A few weeks ago, in random conversations, all my kids said in different ways that of course they would take care of me and their daddy. It seemed obvious to them, a spark of Jesus within them wanting to love, love, love.
How about you? When have you seen love demonstrated? And how have you cared for grandparents and parents? What are the challenges? What have you learned?