“Is there anything I might do for you?” I ask the elderly woman seated beside me, fully aware that I am considered elderly as well. I am holding her hand as she cries while watching my seven grandchildren sing Christmas songs and sacred hymns. They are lead by their inspired mother. We are in a rehab center, in the Alzheimer’s Wing. My mother-in-law lives there.
She replies, “You just did. From across the room, you looked at me. Then, you smiled at me. And now, you are seated beside me holding my hand.”
It took my breath away to hear her speak so eloquently. I began to wonder about how we, as a world, treat our older population. I notice that many in the little concert setting were crying while others were smiling. I float among them as we sing together with the sweet children. I am reminded of taking my own babies, along with my brother, to sing during the holidays. I wonder about the other times of the year. Could I do more?
Two years earlier I found myself in the same facility after a hip replacement. I happened to develop a case of shingles, which is highly contagious, and I was isolated for the entire visit.
I was brutally lonely.
Now, I believed I could give a gift of service to this wonderful place. I could give back.
Her words haunt me as I scramble to make sense of my own journey and my wish for meaningful life.