29 Nov

Old Folks Need Visitors

Old Folks Need Visitors

When my daughter was a little girl…her dad (a string bass player) and a piano player and a drummer joined me for a series of visits to what was then called “extended care hospitals”.  Now we refer to them as assisted living residences.  We brought Christmas cheer to the patients/residents with our variety of music and shared the stages with the Edmonton (Alberta) Police Pipe and Drum band.  I watched the old folks’ tears flow…saw their feet tapping and words being silently mouthed. Sometimes we could actually  hear their voices joining in the old familiar  songs. This “gig” was offered to us over several Christmas seasons. I always felt badly that we were paid very well…when it was such an incredible blessing to bring joy to these people.  OLD FOLKS NEED VISITORS! 

Nurses told us stories of how so many of the patients never had a visitor.  I mean, NEVER!  So unless it was a special occasion and a program brought visitors to entertain…these folks sat in their rooms…or were left to lie in their beds…day after day…week after week…month after month and year after year…without ever seeing a “personal visitor”.

Over the years I came to know some of those residents.  One lady, who’d been a nun and a music teacher is one soul I have never forgotten. Her name was Sister Cecile.  She had taught music in Native Indian schools in the Canadian North. She loved to sing…though she could no longer play her guitar. I would hold the microphone so she could sing with me from her bed…which the staff had rolled into the room and right up close to the stage.  She had a beautiful smile…and twinkling eyes.

Then came a Christmas when Sister Cecile was missing from the audience. I inquired about her and we learned that she was too ill to come down to the program. “Santa Claus” (one of the police detectives who was built like the Jolly Old Man and had a heart of gold) suggested I bring my 6 year old daughter along and we’d go up to Sister Cecile’s room to do a little singing for her. As we entered her room it was obvious that she was now paralyzed from the neck down.  She could no longer sing…but she could whisper!  She told me “as long as I have breath I will praise HIM”!  Her faith was in tact…her eyes still twinkled as she gazed up at the sample of the Christmas cards she had mouth-painted …a total of 200 of them!  The staff sent them out to her friends…including the “family of sisters” from her Order in Quebec. I tearfully sang her favorite “Oh, Holy Night”…and Santa and my daughter, Melissa delivered her Christmas treats.  Sister Cecile was gone by the next Christmas …she had departed for her Eternal Rest…to reside  in the presence of the Lord she loved and served. Surely, the angels rejoiced at her arrival in that realm!

How often…I have claimed that every person in the world ought to have the opportunity to visit the “shut ins” in their communities.  It was “the best gift I ever got for Christmas”!
Giving …blessing…making a difference….proves to me that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Commercialism has lost its lustre for me.  TIME is the most precious gift I can receive from friends and family.  Unfortunately, there are FEW who have ANY TIME to share.
It is a rare treat…and a lost art…to get together and just sit and chat.  Maybe that is a sign that I really AM one of the “old folks” myself now.

Billions will be spent on GIFTS…STUFF of this world.  I am ” storing up my treasures in Heaven”…because I have seen how our belongings can be gone in a flash…like my parents’ home which burned to the ground when I was six months old…or the lost lives and homes in Hurricane Sandy…and other heart-breaking disasters around the globe.  What matters “in the end” is loving and being loved.  Does anybody have time?

I don’t run up credit card debt…using “pretend” money to buy things people don’t want or need…but I did send money to buy 40 pairs of shoes for barefoot kids who live in garbage dumps.  Then I wrote a little poem to 8 family members …telling them that I chose to send 5 pairs of shoes from each of them…instead of giving them a gift card to spend on themselves at the mall.  (Of course, I did give them one small gift to open this Christmas)  I rarely hear a “Thank you”…so I am never sure if they even knew what I sent them.  One year I called to see if the box arrived in the U.S. that I sent from Canada…and my granddaughter couldn’t remember?  “I think so” she said…it was no big deal.  I can’t blame the kids…it’s a whole society of material-minded people who are not yet “Old FOlks” so they don’t realize how things will change in years to come. They are busy texting, tweeting, facebooking, and convincing themselves that having 4,000 friends on line proves they are incredibly well-connected and socially in-step with their time!

Someday….THEY will be the “OLD FOLKS” who are lonely for company.  I hope they will have some visitors…maybe somebody who can sing them a song…but will there have been any worth remembering or singing?  Or will they have to tap their toes to a rap song?  At least it doesn’t matter if you are out of tune! 🙂

If you can…go visit some elderly folks…even if you don’t know them…they will love your gift of time… talk…treats…and if you can…bring a dog or cat for them to pet or better yet a little child. When my 6 year old Melissa… and I stopped in the room of Mrs. Dolly Goodman…after one of our shows…we learned that she was blind. This nice little lady hugged my daughter… and discovered Melissa’s long naturally curly hair…and though she couldn’t see those blond locks she loved stroking them. It made an impact on Melissa who would often aske me, “Mommy, can we go back and visit Mrs. Dolly Goodman”?   I’d tell her…”yes we will, honey, BUT I don’t have time this week”!  Of course, we never did go back to see Mrs. Dolly Goodman.  She passed away while I was “too busy”!

During your busy holiday preparations…could you squeeze in a visit to someone who may be all alone?  I promise it will bless you …and there is no way to know how much of a blessing it would be to the ONE you take time for!

I am going to find the time…for someone…because, I too…am lonely!

Be blessed!

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