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. Oh God, this brought me to tears. I wish for the same things too! A really humbling experience, I must say. And you painted it out with words so apt. Thank God I came upon this post. Its a good lesson to start this week with. Thank you sharing this.


  2. Agnes Tabor

    I came on your post and as I looked at the crossed hands it brought back the tears that i recently shed during my mom’s last days ending on February 28, 2016. My daughter was there with me so appropriate since she was so close. We watched mom, talking and praying so close hoping that she would know we were there and sharing her last moments. The hours before we left mom for the evening my daughter told me that mom’s spirit had left and we knew that it would not be long. As we drove home the sky was an array of the most beautiful colors as the sun prepared to set, we both agreed that this was mom’s palate her way of saying goodby. We arrived home and it was not long before we were summoned to return because mom had left. Thank you for taking the time to share.


  3. The Leaky Inkpot

    The ever present glow of love of our grandparents each time we visit them is always a sight to look forward to..They always remind us to appreciate our faith,our losses and each and every blessing. It’s always a sad occasion when we lose them but we hold on knowing all they taught us is deep within our hearts.
    Thanks for the article..


  4. So beautifully written. This truly touched my heart. More power to you…I must admit that the way you described this story was so moving that my eyes were moist and in the end …. a tear drop released itself from the gates of my eyelids reassuring me that yes Love and People do matter the most.
    Thank you for such a beautiful and heartwarming post. God bless.


  5. This was such a beautiful post. As a nurse, it is also so incredibly humbling to take care of these individuals. It may take me extra time to “give meds” but hearing the stories is one of my favorite things. Thanks for sharing!


  6. This is a great read I recently got engaged we have been together for 5 years and I feel like this will be me with my fiancés parents I love them like they were my own! I don’t know what I would do without them!


  7. Pingback: Lessons From The Elderly. | sindhuspace

  8. Unathi K.

    I have an elderly mom and my dad passed on a few years ago. This has reminded me of the fragility and contentment that I saw in my dad first in his last years and now my mom. Thanks for sharing.


  9. Kim Bailey Deal

    Your words resonate with me. I sat at my father-in-laws side at the end of his days and though I had not known him for long, I was able to see what it looks like for someone to come to their end of life on earth and realize what matters most. Thank you.


  10. I love this! I think all the time I want a relationship like my grandparents had. This past Saturday was the 6th year since the passing of my grandfather and my boyfriend sent me flowers while he’s on deployment and had know idea about the 6th year of my grandfathers passing.


  11. OH, yes, yes, and yes. This is beautiful. May our lives not be so wrapped up in agendas, demands and desires that we fail to realize the most important things is life are NEVER things! ❤ Love this! Thank you so much for brightening my day (even with tears)! 😉


  12. This post moved me to tears. Thank you for such a beautiful post.
    My grandad recently passed away and I miss him so much, but I am so grateful for the stories he shared and the lessons he taught.
    My nan is lost without him and it breaks my heart to see her without him by her side. Missing him is hard, but I feel so lucky to have known him and been so close to him. You’ll never remember a person by what they owned but by how they made you feel.


Please leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s