Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Sobering Evening of Helping

A runner friend of mind, Chelle, does a really nice thing every year a week or so before Christmas. She gathers a bunch of runners to do a five mile run on a Wednesday night, and they each bring a poinsettia. Then on the next night, she and whoever can help takes the poinsettias to a local nursing home to try to put a little Christmas cheer in the lives of some of the elderly.

I've never been able to make the run, but last week, I was free Thursday to help distribute the flowers at the Hermitage Nursing home. About six of us showed up to help distribute maybe 60 plants. We would go into rooms and just leave a plant if the resident was not there or asleep, or chat with them a bit if they were there and awake (and aware). We did the nursing home side first, then took the remaining plants to the assisted living side.

It was sobering and a little sad. I've not spent a lot of time around really elderly people. My grandfather died at 69, and my other three grandparents were long gone before I arrived. Neither of my parents made it to really old age. A lot of these people are essentially warehoused, waiting to die. Some are very mentally confused, others on medication I would guess that made them sound asleep at 6:30PM. Most of them are extemely weak. Many of them were thrilled to get the plant, and to chat a bit, even if they were a little confused about why a poinsettia was being given to them. "Who is this from again?" one elderly lady asked me for about the tenth time. "There is no one I know who would send me this beautiful thing."

Most of them were alone, having outlived a spouse. One 90 year old man I talked to was grieving for his wife of 50 years who had died. He was a World War II vet and started crying when I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. But he pulled it together and we had a long chat. Another man was 97, and still in assisted living rather than nursing care. Most of them were watching TV alone in their room, or wandering about a little confused. But some of them had gathered in a common room and were chatting together. Some told us of family in there area who visited, of grandchildren who called regularly. Others were clearly alone in the world.

I guess all of us, if we live long enough, will get there. We'll outlive a spouse. We will get too mentally feeble to understand how to take care of ourselves, or we will be too physically feeble to be able to even if we still understand what needs to be done. Maybe our kids will care, maybe they won't. These strong legs which carried us through marathons and up mountains will barely be strong enough to help us get out of a chair, and eventually, maybe not even that. When you are younger and have strength, it is hard to visualize being feeble, infirm, and confused. But I hope if that is me someday, someone will bring me a poinsettia at Christmas and have a little chat.

1 comment:

TNTcoach Ken said...

That's a great gesture and I agree about the warehousing statement. I've not been exposed either and can't imagine what they're going through. Glad you were able to help out. Happy Holidays.....