Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Old and Older

Recently, Hubby and I attended the 100th birthday of an amazing woman.  I don't think she'd mind if I put her on blast because 100 is an age very few people will have a chance to see.  This lady is remarkable for quite a few reasons, her faith, perseverence, love and inspiration just to name a few.  This lady is also special because she bears 7 names. Her name is Josephine Rosaline Leatha Mary Magdaline Bacon Campbell. I'm not sure how long it took for her to learn to spell her full name, but we heard that when she was growing up, kids would often pay her just to hear her say her name.  Talk about an enterprising spirit!  A one hundred year old woman obviously has a lot of older friends, and although they came yielding canes or leaning on walkers they were in full attendance. It was heartwarming to witness the bonds of long lasting friendships and to hear how Jo Jo had supported them throughout the years.

Seeing Jo Jo and her friends, made me think about when I was a little girl and had a difficult time being around elderly people.  It all began in elementary school when my class would go across the street to sing and 'visit' the patients in the convalescent home. We would  make craft projects to share and then we would sing to the residents. I remember being warned  that the patients might grab at us and many would be in wheelchairs. Of course, the teacher didn't warn us about the pungent odors or how the patients might talk to themselves for no particular reason. As they were ushered into the room, my heart began pounding with fear.  I saw a sea of wrinkled, toothless faces.  As we started singing though, the scary faces lit up. I begin to realize that what I recognized in their eyes was pure loneliness.

 After we'd finished singing, we were offered cookies and punch and an opportunity to visit with the patients.  My twin and I stuck close to one another as we ventured past wheelchaired bound men and women. With my sister by my side, it wasn't so scary to have them grab for my hand or reach out to caress my cheek. We chatted with them and told them our names. Realizing how much our presence meant to them, I started to anticipate the next visit and many more after that.

Years later, even though my kids had grandparents that were still alive and very much a part of their lives, I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring a little happiness to someone in a nursing home without regular visitors.  My oldest, Bri Bri was about 8 and Cam about 5 when we met Grandma Gladys.  She was a kind, gentle lady who made the kids feel at ease despite the fact that she was wheelchair bound.  She oohed and aahed over their artwork and displayed them proudly for the nurses to see.  In time, the fear that I saw reflected on my kids' faces was replaced by anticipation.  They looked forward to visiting Grandma Gladys.

One day, we went to visit Grandma Gladys only to discover her bed occupied by someone else.  Fearing the worse, I told the kids to stay put while I talked to the nurse.  I was relieved to learn that Grandma Gladys' only relative, a niece had come from out of state to move her in with her.  We were thankful for the short while we'd had with Grandma Gladys. Each of us grew so much from our connections with her.

We've embraced many more grandma/grandpa figures since then. What began as a simple way to give back, ended up being a way for us to receive blessings of love. Do you have a special senior that has made a difference in your life? I would love to hear about it.


  1. I love your friend Josephine's long name. 100 is a big milestone!
    I enjoyed reading about your times with seniors. I have a lot of special seniors because I'm a nurse in a nursing home. I have met some really wonderful people in the 19 years I've been there. I may have to write a post about some of them.

  2. I came over here from Mari's blog comments and I was thrilled I did!! Jo Jo, huh? Far cry from her REAL name. Wow...that must have been one inspirational celebration. I'm really glad you shared all this experience, it warmed my heart and gave me a reason to know there is still some "good" in this world.

  3. Jo Jo name is cool. Our next door neighbors in Utah are elderly and really special to us. I hated moving from them and worry about them all the time. They have email and are on FB love that.

  4. Wow!! That's a really long name! Hubby's grandma just passed away yesterday at 92. We were hoping she'd make it to 100. She was quite an amazing woman. She could crochet and knit very well and was a fantastic cook.

  5. What a sweet story and a beautiful thing you did.
    Thank you for stopping over today. You haven't been coming up in my reader. I think I have fixed it. I don't want you to think that I only come over because you came over!

  6. I remember those times of sharing the holiday songs with the elderly at the convalescent hospital. I was a bit scared but glad that I had you close by. I think it made them feel so happy to hear songs that reminded them of their childhoods.

    Maybe we need to find a few elderly ladies to invite on our Thelma and Louise trip?

  7. It's really nice that you were able to take your children and helped them learn the blessing of giving... I hope to be able to do that with my two when they are older.

  8. I work in an assisted living facility as an Activities Director, where the average age of the residents is 85. It's an amazing group of men and woman who each has a wonderful story to tell. We have one woman at the Residence that is 100 years old. She is such a positive woman who enjoys being out and mingling with everyone. She never misses our "Friday Happy Hour" and always insists on a glass of wine and likes to be pushed around when there is dancing going on! We've got a new resident moving in next week who is 104! I'm so anxious to meet her and find out her secret!