Lessons From The Elderly.



It’s early Tuesday morning and I’m sitting at my mother-in-laws bedside at the local community hospital.  It seems as though this is the hundredth time I’ve found myself in this situation since moving her and my father-in-law back to Chicago because of failing health.  My Father-in-law, or Poppi as he was endearingly referred to by all, has since passed away.   He left behind his wife of over 65 years with a void in her heart as wide as the universe.  Their love was deep and strong and centered around their faith.  It was a strong union.  Among the strongest I’ve ever witnessed.

My hubs and I drove to the hospital in separate cars because, well, life is busy and our hectic schedules would pull us in different directions after our visit.  For us, even in the midst of emergency and tragedy, life doesn’t slow down. But, for my sweet mother-in-law, June, life had come to a screeching halt.  Looking down at her in the narrow, uncomfortable looking hospital bed, I saw the shell of the woman that she once was.  She lay there frail; shallowly breathing.  I grabbed her hand and whispered to her that we were there.  She struggled to slowly open her eyes.  She fought to say something to us but her mouth and throat were too dry and her voice was whisper soft.   We leaned in closer and were finally able to hear that she wanted to know what happened.

There’s something very humbling about visiting the elderly in the hospital.  Especially when they are at the end of their life.  If they’re able to communicate still, they tend to treat you to the stories of their lives.  And, through those stories you realize that the things that have made the biggest impact on their lives and the treasures that they’ve carried with them to the end have very little to do materialism.

They remember experiences and people.  They remember driving across the country in their car to visit a married daughter and her family.  They remember growing up in simpler times, before technology.  Beach days and sunsets.  They remember overcoming hardships and being thankful for what they had rather than wishing they had more.  All of their stories have a common theme.  The topic always centers on people, love, experiences and faith.

I thought about all of this as I sat next to this wonderful woman who had, so far, lived through 9 decades and had seen so many changes in her lifetime.  Both June and Poppi had treated me to hundreds of stories in the years since I had joined their family through marriage.  Stories that painted a picture of who they were and what was important to them. Stories that I would forever treasure and that I had heard so often that I could retell them in perfect detail, myself.

When I first came to know this sweet couple, my first thoughts were, “what a striking couple.”  They seemed to have the best of everything.  My mother-in-law was always impeccably dressed in coordinating outfits, would never leave the house without perfectly styled hair (and her lipstick on) and lived in a beautifully decorated, large home that most people would love to live in.  My father-in-law was handsome, jovial and at his happiest when on the golf course or tennis courts.  He loved good food, travel and the nicer things in life.   He was one of the most generous men I have ever met.  He was unique and outspoken and everyone loved him.

It did not take long after my marriage to Clark to get to know his parents deeply.  Likewise, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the fancy material things that they were blessed to be surrounded by were not what mattered most to them in life.  It was their love of God, family and friendships.  They showed me this preference of theirs through their actions time and time again.  I’ve always considered that lesson a gift and one I want to pass on to my children.  Love and people matter most in life.

Back in her hospital room, June and I sat in silence, as we had so many times before, and memories of her life swirled through my thoughts.  As I sat there, somewhere in the background was the loud whirring sound of some kind of machine she was hooked up to.  Her legs were wrapped in special socks to keep her circulation pumping as she lay there.  I could hear different doctors being paged over the intercom system in the hallway.  There was the faint smell of Lysol and ammonia and some kind of disinfectant in the air.

Even as all of this commotion went on around us, it felt oddly serene and quiet sitting there holding her hand.  I looked down at my now sleeping Mom.   She was laying there naked faced, no lipstick, her thinning hair completely flattened and messy, and wrapped in a flimsy, faded hospital gown.  And, I thought she had never looked more beautiful in her entire life.  Her life had gone from fancy to humble in the period of a few years. Because she had never put too much weight or value into the material goods of life,  she seemed at peace to me.  She knew she had a family that thought the world of her.  She had her faith.  She knew that one day she would be reunited with her husband again.

I can never thank this sweet couple enough for the deep lessons they’ve taught me in life through their actions.   When I’m at the end of my life, I pray that I will have made some kind of an impact on someone else’s life, too.  I hope that someone will look down at me in my hospital bed with gratitude for lessons I’ve passed on to them.  Lessons of faith and love.


305 thoughts on “Lessons From The Elderly.

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is so true that material things don’t matter. My stepfather passed away almost a year ago and his frail body was difficult to see. Still the day before he died, he was alert and joking with all of us while resting in between. I don’t think he wanted to miss a thing of those moments. I miss is laugh and his inquisitive nature. He always asked how we were doing and seemed genuinely interested in all of our lives. Very beautifully written!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. daramemon

    When some one writes like for their in laws it is a joy to read, may this couple be united in heaven. Simple joys, a testimony of a well lived life

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Naked faced. A phrase I completely understand. Simple beauty. My mother looked the most at peace that I have ever seen her the evening before she left us not so long ago. This lesson from your mother and father-in-law are the lessons my parents tried to teach us. It was a simpler, more genuine time. Thank you for this beautiful piece. AS it should have, it brought tears to my eyes. The best writing provokes, non?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This was really beautiful, and reminded me of my Aunt whom I was the go to person. We were very close, and I really miss her. She wasn’t outwardly a pretty person, but her soul was the most beautiful thing there was. Any time she was coming to my house before she got sick she would always call and ask if there was anything she could bring. We lived an hour apart, she in the city, and I in the country. She even called on and asked this question on Christmas Eve one year as she always came up to spend Christmas with us. That particular year my oldest had asked for more goldfish for her tank (from Santa) so naturally I was racking my brain on how to do this. My Aunt, bless her heart, was more than willing to go and pick up a dozen feeder goldfish in the throng of Christmas Eve shoppers on her way to our place. She slipped them to me as she came in the door, and I hid them until the next day. My Aunt got this personality of kindness honestly, as my Grandparents were the same way. My Grandfather once took me to a bike shop to repair a tire when I was a teen and then sent me on my way again for my biking adventure. Most people would have loaded the kid and the bike up and took both back home for a tire to be repaired another day. I really appreciate and love having these memories and they remind me that going out of my way for people is the ultimate demonstration of love to them. I really loved reading this story of your Mother in law, especially the part about her really loving and enjoying her memories of her friends. It is wonderful when people realize and can appreciate what is really valuable! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. The Originals

    What a beautiful way to express your love to the elderly. In a world where everyone is running after materialistic benefits, you have truthfully shown that in the end what matters is love. A beautiful post indeed…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you very much for your beautiful depiction of your mother-in-law, I would have wished having someone as sweet as her as my mother- in -law so as to guide me in a more loving relationship with my husband. The old pictures are also very sweet.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. daniebautista

    Wow! This was such a beautiful post. My grandma died a few months back and she’s all I could think about while reading this. She used to tell me such great stories filled with wisdom as well. Thank you for sharing this. It was definitely moving.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. laratollin

    A very beautiful post. So touching and full of love. The best couples on the street are those old couples, who barely walk and hold each others hand and they smile secretly, knowing that they are the happiest they could be โค

    Liked by 2 people

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