when change is hard but lives are precious

I quietly walked down the long corridor and noticed yet again many sweet faces as I passed each room. Some with guests, but most without. Many lying quietly alone. In their own little room. And, their own little world.

As I entered the room at the end of the hall, it was very warm and sunlight poured through the picture window. On the bed were stacks of blankets and under those blankets was one of my best friends. My grandmother. She has really suffered the last few weeks as many elderly people do. After a fall and a few broken bones, she is undergoing many changes.

Yes, change is hard for someone in their eighties, even without all the other complications. Let’s face it. Change is just hard for anyone. Period.

You see, as hard as it is to watch someone you love grow older and more dependent, it really is our responsibility to be what they need in those later years. Just as they were to us in our early years. Some of the sweetest memories I have in life revolve around my grandparents. The gift of those memories I could never repay.

I think we often lose sight of the women and men our elderly once were. How vibrant and vital their lives had been in years past. How much they contributed to their families and our society. How special they were during some of the most precious times in our lives.

Today, as I visited, she was anxious and concerned. She repeatedly told me she felt bad. She just could not get better. But, as we talked, I started telling stories from years gone by. Stories laced with laughter and love and family. Stories that she would just patiently listen to, nod her head, and say, “Yes, I remember.”

In her younger years, she was a pint-sized stick of dynamite. Each day she prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner. At lunchtime, whoever was working on our farm gathered around a table filled with her delicacies. Not just a one meat and two veggie kind of meal either. Her table was filled with home-cooked goodies. Many days we had more than one meal there. Cooking was her passion, but not really for the food, but rather because it was how she shared her love with all of us.

She had her own little routine, and we were always part of it. She married very young and early in her marriage she took on the responsibility of caring for my bed-ridden great-grandmother. I can’t imagine how tiring and stressful her days must have seemed as she cared for two toddlers along with a completely dependent mother-in-law. She knew what it meant to put others first. And, yes, she not only knew, she lived it.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. {Phil. 2: 3-4}

As she was older, a new kind of responsibility kicked in. One of being, Grandmother. Her days consisted of baby dolls, grocery carts, Tonka trucks, hair bows and fishing lures. Anything we loved, she loved, too. Always going above and beyond to make sure we were cared for better than well. Without her love and support, I know my life would be very different today. She has always been a blessing to many.

She loved to shop and travel, and never did either without some little treat for all of us. We had the most extensive book collection of any children you would meet. Yes, she was an avid reader and at a very early age she shared that passion with all of us.

Pretty purses, high heels and lemon cheese cake were just a few of her loves back then, and I must confess, I learned to be passionate about those as well! The great thing about her was as much as she loved these girly things, she could also hold her own at the end of a cane pole and could handle any man around the table who didn’t know how to speak kindly while eating. Or, say he enjoyed it!

As I left her today, I kept thinking how wrong I have been at times. Too many times I have impatiently ‘fussed’ at her about her decisions to stay home instead of joining us for dinner. I have complained that she needed to get out more. Do more. Call us more. Just be her old self. And, it hit me. She can’t.

Time and age and loneliness have changed her, and rightly so.

Living alone for over thirty years could certainly do that to a woman. Caring for others your entire life could certainly take away some of your zeal and zest. And, yes, poor health after falls and accidents could definitely make it hard to be anything more than what you are. Tired and dare I say, lonely.

This last year, God has really worked to open my eyes and it has been hard at times, but yet, such a blessing. He has allowed me to see her and her circumstances through His eyes. Seeing her loneliness, but even better, allowing me to feel it. Observing her circumstances, while giving me wisdom to better understand them. And, yes, realizing that she was in need of so much more than I had given the past few years. Children and work and life had gotten in my way all too often.

You see, our elderly need us. Really need us.

To share life with them after losing the love of theirs.

To share memories with them after many have passed and left them behind.

To know and understand that they can’t be who they once were, but that yes, at this older age, so much of them is even better.

They have time to talk and wisdom to share. They offer words of encouragement and advice often without harsh tones and judgment. They can offer a deep love and empathy for the struggles in life we face today. They tell the best stories of days gone by. And, they love seeing you. No matter how much time has passed or how tired you may look.

Yes, a kind word. A hug. And, an “I love you.” Those are huge gifts to her at this stage in life. Memories and stories are just the icing on the cake.

Can I encourage you? If you, too, have an aging parent or grandparent and feel you never have the time, please, find it. You will be blessed more than they will.

No amount of activities or day–to-day stuff is worth missing precious time with those we love.

And, yes, if you are a parent yourself, your children are watching. They are learning from you.

It is true; our actions speak much louder than our words.

Don’t we want them to understand how sacred our time on earth really is? How precious just a few moments and memories are to someone older and alone? How much God wants us to ‘honor’ others above ourselves? And, to care for the widows and orphans.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. {James 1:27}

It is so important and time is fleeting. Trust me, I have wasted too many years with too many of the people I have loved the most who are now gone.

It’s time to put first things first. People. To love as He loves us.

And, yes, to honor all of those who have helped create the beautiful memories that have woven together the very fabric of our being.

Time is by far the greatest gift we can give to others.



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  • Reply Kathy Johns March 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I love reading your blog. You have a real talent for this. You should write a book!

    • Reply Jennifer Woodward March 3, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you so much, Kathy. It is really all God!

  • Reply Susan Heck March 3, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for this! You brought me to tears. I first thought of how much I miss my own Garndmama. Oh how I wish that I could sit at her kitchen table again. I’m so glad my children are with my mama this afternoon. I hope they appreciate their time with her.

    • Reply Jennifer Woodward March 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Thank you for your sweet words and encouragement. Grandmothers just hold that special place in our hearts forever! Hope you and your sweet family are well. Blessings!

  • Reply Joy Borland March 4, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Beautiful Jen! I So miss those who have gone before me! My parents, Todd’s parents, my brother-in-law. Time Is so precious with those that we love. I pray that those reading this will savor the time with their family!

    • Reply Jennifer Woodward March 4, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Thank you for your encouragement, Joy! I agree, I miss so many sweet souls as well. That is my prayer. That we would all appreciate those we love more. I hope you and your sweet family are well! Love!

  • Reply Kathy Owens Croft March 4, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Jennifer, so sorry to hear your grandmother fell. I will pray for healing for her. You are so right about spending time with grandparents. My grandmother has been dead about 15 years & wow I miss her. But just as you said, so many times after she couldn’t drive anymore, we would only stay for a minute when visiting when all she wanted was company & then would sit her chair in the kitchen while we did dishes just to be near us. Great memories & she lived until 89 but those last 10 years I should have visited more!! Enjoy every minute! Your grandmother & mine sound so similar. Love & hugs!

    • Reply Jennifer Woodward March 4, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Thank you, sweet friend! Hope all is well with you in your new home!

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