A Celebration of Life by Lynne Joseph

A life is a precious thing. The experiences of each life are unique and individual. When a person reaches the golden years of life they have such exciting stories to tell, experiences to learn from, talents to teach, and love to give. These people deserve respect, loving care, dignity and the right to live as they choose. When I would  go into a residence such as the John Noble Home or Charlotte Villa, I looked forward to talking to the people who lived there. They are usually cheerful, friendly and eager to talk to anyone who will take the time to listen. I have been taught to knit, quilt, and paint as a result of these individuals. I have learned patience, understanding and forgiving from the wonderful people I have been lucky enough to work with. I was a care giver, and a DSW or Developmental Service Worker. I worked with those who were elderly, physically challenged, deaf and deaf/blind. Everyone had a story to tell in their own way. Each had lived a life unique to that of others. Not all were happy, not all were sad, but all were special.

 Families once lived together, the younger taking care of the elders giving back what was so freely given. Everyone lived in the same house. The elders took care of the young ones while the parents worked and were taken care of in return when their time came. Now there is no time for this, or very little. It is rare for a family to care for its senior family, especially if extra care is needed. Time is needed to work and make a living. Two pay checks are demanded to have a normal life and to give children the things that others have.

Seniors are my favourite people, especially now that I am one. I have spent many hours enchanted by the tales of times gone by, of battles fought, of a family get-together gone astray, and shed tears with people who wonder where the children they raised and nurtured have gone.

One elderly lady I remember, sat each day, dressed with her coat on and umbrella in hand patiently waiting for a family member to come visit. The lady had lived out this same routine each day for four years. The family had their own lives to live, their own problems, their own pleasures. Alas, they were too busy to spend an hour with the one person who spent so many hours listening to them cry, feeding them when hungry, tending to them when they were ill and worrying when they came home late.  

Until the lady’s passing, I tried to visit at least once a month, always in the hallway outside her room, for a short time, while she was  waiting for the visitors who never came. She would patiently tell me that her family were very busy and she just wanted to be ready when they came so that she would not waste any of their valuable time.

 There are so many people in the many nursing homes and seniors establishments who are lonely, unwanted or forgotten.  Many have literally outlived loved ones and so have no one. This is where we should come in. Out here at Smokey Hollow we take care of each other. We are a community, but in many ways we are also a family. Everyone knows if someone is sick, in hospital or had a birthday. 

One new friend has taught me how to knit socks (I never could turn the heel).  Another is teaching me to take more time doing things so I don’t hurt myself as I am handicapped. At pancake breakfast held the first Saturday of the month I can work from 9 a.m. until 12:30 with a whole group of happy ladies working together as a team to make others happy, enjoying family and fellowship.

 Brantford has so many loving people and there are so many students who would benefit from visiting these wonderful elders. Imagine the stories, life on a farm where cows were milked each morning and afternoon, dishes washed by hand, clothes hung out in the sun light to dry. 

I never knew my own grandparents as they were gone by the time I was born. I still feel that great loss. I am sure my life would have been richer for knowing my Dutch grandma, my Scottish grandma and a grandfather who was a farmer. The other one was a constable. Think of the ethnic differences, the cultural differences and the fun I missed as a child. My children had time with theirs, fortunately, and still speak lovingly of them. Good memories stay in the mind but also in the heart.

If you could see through those eyes the winning of the war, the coming home of so many who were well, or wounded and the grief for those who didn’t come home at all.

Look around you. See the gentle lady sitting in the sun who remembers waltzing to the old bands with a soldier. Tales of children and grandchildren and the wonderful things done together, the scary things that we take for granted, and the breezes blowing on board a ship which brought some over from another country to live in ours all can enrich your own life. 

We have time to sit and watch TV giving our attention to The Simpsons, Monday Night Football, or Much Music. Would Grandma enjoy a movie night? That short time could be spent in a visit, a phone call or in writing a short note just to say hello. 

I learned my love of books, good music, art, and gardening from those who came before me and knew what was important, what was needed to produce a human being who had respect, who was mature, who was responsible.

Maybe if we could involve our children with such people, they could learn from each other, share with each other, give and accept love, dignity and responsibility. Children are the most accepting of us all. Yes, they say what they think because they have not learned to lie, to be mean and spiteful. Those happy smiling faces and tinkling laughter can bring a smile from someone who remembers that sight, that sound, that moment of pure joy.

The seniors in our lives have so much to share. They are indeed a great, untapped resource if only we take the time to reach out and accept the many precious gifts that they have to give. All we need do is make a little time and use it for the benefit of ourselves, our families and our seniors. Accept the gifts they have to offer and give back  the gift of love. Do you have elderly parents? Do you have grandparents? When did you last take the time to say, “I love you!”.

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