One of the hardest things as a pastor is watching great-grandparents who have been forgotten by their families. They struggle to walk, to take a few steps in the grocery store, to carry a bag, to stand up without falling over, to drive. Lifting a pan from the oven can be hard as it’s heavy and their doctor instructed them not to bend over with recent hip surgery. It’s hard to watch their bodies shutting down. It’s hard to see their houses pile up with stacks of life and history that they have no energy to clean up or put away. They have no energy to put up Christmas decorations and sometimes never take them down, or barely eat one small meal for that day. Then there are the emergency room runs, half of whom were dehydrated. What an easy fix, yet for some they struggle to make it to the bathroom in time and grow weary of adult diapers. Sometimes they’ve forgotten how to operate the microwave. How do they eat? And where are their kids? Where are their grandkids?
I admit I’ve been disgusted when I take food to some great-grandparents who desperately needed the nutrition, to find their grandkids came in and ate it without permission. The grandkids need to be the ones making their grandparents food and helping them sweep the porch, mow the grass, and cleaning the bathroom.
I think back to when I was a grandkid with aging grandparents. I remember the year, grandma asked me to put the ornaments on her tree. I thought it was strange at that time. Grandma always went overboard to make Christmas special. It was our shared favorite holiday. I was still in high school and unaware of the needs of my aging grandma. She just didn’t have the strength to do it. My brother was more sensitive and brought a load of wood for the wood stove.
I lived with my other grandma for a year during grad school days. It became clear she needed help. I cleaned her bathroom and realized she needed that extra help. The bathroom was disgusting. This made me a little more more sensitive to the needs of the elderly. Folding laundry is no problem for most, but bending over to do laundry can become a challenge that hurts.
Giving dignity, giving extra help as needed without ‘taking over’ can be a balancing act of love and respect. Yet, I find there is always something that can be done to help. Cutting blackberry bushes, bringing a meal, having a cup of tea and spending time to listen to stories of years gone by.
As someone who loves Jesus and shares life in the church community, I love how the church shows up to meet needs where the families have forgotten them. Yard work, meals supplied, grocery shopping complete, bathrooms cleaned, floors scrubbed. Little things go a long way. The family of God shows up to install handrails and pick up these dear souls for Bible Study.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We don’t do good deeds for salvation, we do good deeds because of Christ’s most amazing deed of his death on the cross for us.
Deuteronomy 5:16 says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” I’ve sat with children of dying parents who were abused by that parent, yet forgive, give dignity and honor them until their final breath.
I can’t help but wonder if sometimes it doesn’t go well for us, because we fail to honor the aging. Taking from them is not honoring. Stealing their possessions is not honoring. I’ve seen it and been disgusted once again. Giving above and beyond is honoring, asking for nothing in return. It’s time to rise up and live Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Someone in your church needs help. Your grandparents need help. The elderly neighbor needs help. There might be no one else who helps them. You, be the hands and feet of Jesus and love them as the Lord directs.
Lord, help us to honor the aging and do our very best to honor you as we serve them with Your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.