Two very different life encounters touched my heart on the same day last week.
While the common thread was love, the two were in stark contrast…
A little boy’s love…
My daughter Liesel needed to be in the city until early evening and asked if I could pick up Flynn from care. When I arrived a very tired little boy was almost asleep on the floor surrounded by other children. His head was at the foot of a couch so I reached over from behind and tickled his hair. He turned around, saw me, and without a word climbed onto the couch and into my arms. He wrapped his arms tightly around my neck and gave me a hug that only a young child can give. He has given me many such hugs from a young age… the joy and deep love that surges through my heart every time never diminishes.
A little later, as we drove home, a voice from the back seat said, “I love being your kid (grandkid)”. Again he touched my heart with the innocent, uncomplicated, totally unconditional love of a child.
After we’d had a two course dinner (a bowl of Weetbix followed by a bowl of spaghetti!) my phone rang. Liesel was on her way home and we talked until she pulled up outside.
I said to Flynn, “Let’s go and meet Mummy at the front door!”. Flynn and I ran down the corridor and as we arrived at the door he said, “We can scare her!”. This was not quite what I had in mind so I suggested we yell “Surprise!” instead. Flynn responded with a precious alternative, “No, we’ll say ‘I love you!’” and, “You say it when I say it Grandad!”.
I squatted down next to him and we waited while Liesel got organized to come in. A car door closed outside. I looked at Flynn and said, “She’s coming!”. Flynn focused on the door with frequent quick glances in my direction. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was glowing with excitement, his eyes were bright with joy, and his body was shaking as he could barely contain himself.
Soon a shadow crossed the window next to the door and the door opened. We both yelled, “I love you!” and Flynn wrapped himself around Mummy’s legs. I think Liesel melted on the spot.
How incredibly precious these moments are! The beautiful innocence and unfettered feelings of childhood pass so quickly… thankfully we have memories we can hold onto forever… provided we make time to be part of them.
An old lady’s sadness…
The other encounter occurred while I was visiting Mumma (Rosie’s Mum) at her retirement village earlier in the day.
While there I happened to sit next to a very elderly lady in a wheelchair. We got talking and she shared a little of her story over the last few days… She began with a smile, “My family came to visit on Sunday (Mothers Day) and we had such a wonderful time!”
Her face began to fall, “But since then I’ve been feeling flat.” I gently enquired why and she replied, “When I lived in independently in the village I had so many friends. Now that I’m in The Manor (the high care facility) and I’m restricted to a wheelchair I can’t move around on my own. The staff take me to the daily activities but I no longer see my old friends and it’s been difficult to make friends here.” I suspect her apparent deafness had a lot to do with this.
She continued, “Since Mother’s Day I’ve been feeling lonely and bored. I have a very nice room here but I spend so much time there alone. Very few of my family visit… most of them don’t come at all. I tried to contact one of my grandchildren two years ago but they never got back to me, so I thought I would just let them be.”
She was now quite sad. I had no words to relieve her sadness. Feeling very awkward the best I could manage was, “Yes, everybody is so busy these days, it seems they find it hard to make time to visit”. Knowing that all I’d done is tell her what she already knew, I added, “But that does not make it right”. I felt so inadequate and knew my words had only reinforced her sadness. But what else do you say??
The conversation continued a little longer but she soon drifted off onto a completely different topic.
My thoughts turned to what life must be like for Mumma, and the many other elderly people around her, all facing the same situation.
Isolation is such a problem for our elderly people. The wider family circle has long broken down in our broken society. Knowing I had no answers to offer left me with a sad heart and painful questions I want to answer.
I then thought about my own elderly years, still quite a way off, but inexorable in their approach… Will my experience be the same? What can I do now to make it different when I’m elderly?
And, food for thought… Will your experience be the same? What can you do now to ensure you don’t find yourself isolated with diminishing life quality in your elderly years?
The common thread…
All of us, young and old, have an inbuilt need to connect with others at a deep level; connection with family is especially important.
Deep connection is the essence of love and meaningful relationships. Lack of this connection stunts the growth of young children, causes elderly people to die, and creates a yawning vacuum within anyone in between.
But relationships cannot exist unless we are prepared to invest time.
We live in a society where everyone is under stress and time poor; there are so many demands, so many ‘important things we have to do’, and not enough time to do them all.
So what falls off the edge? Often it’s quality time with other people. Family get taken for granted, our children get displaced by our work, we put our elderly folk in ‘care’ homes where they risk becoming isolated and alone. Quality accommodation, good food and excellent medical care can never replace the one thing they really need… love in the form of deep connection with family and friends.
The bottom line is that all our loved ones, friends, family, young, old, need US.
I’m not aiming to create a sense of guilt or regret here. Neither of these help us resolve this problem. Instead we need to face the question of what (more correctly who… our children, the elderly, each other) is most important in our lives and how we can give quality time to those who need our time and our love.
Every relationship we have in life comes to an end at some point. The only time we have to invest in them is now.
Something worth all of us thinking about.
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