Over the past year I have had the opportunity to work at Sunset Manor and Villages, and I cannot say enough of how great of a blessing this job has been in my life. It’s hard even to consider it a job anymore. Yes, I am paid by the company, but I have been given so much more than money. I am privileged to spend a part of every week with elderly saints, building relationships with them and learning from them as they near the end of their lives.
In all honesty, before starting my job at Sunset I was never one to walk up to an elderly person and start a conversation with them. If anything, I avoided them. I believed they were not in the right state of mind for a valuable conversation, so I thought it best not even to try. I believe this was a sin. I was not fellowshipping with the saints as I should have. I felt compelled to write an article about my experiences with the elderly saints in order to encourage you all to talk and build relationships with them as I have.
Many aged saints have been teachers decades before now, and yet they still teach valuable lessons as they near the gates of their heavenly homes. Without trying, they have taught me three very important things.
First, they have encouraged me in the growing of my patience. It isn’t easy to be loving and patient when there are fifteen people all wanting different things at once. Frustration becomes apparent very quickly, and you often end up saying things and doing things in a manner you should not have. I am guilty of this. They have taught me patience in another way as well. Since starting a new position (Resident Aide), I have come to realize that nothing goes quickly with the residents. Everything is taken at a slow pace because of their frail bodies and minds. I tend to be more of a fast-paced individual because of my busy schedule, so it was challenging to adjust to the heavy neediness of the residents. Acts 20:35 is a great reminder: “ I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We are not to support the weak in frustration and anger, but we are to support them in love and patience.
Second, I have been taught to not take the small, everyday things that we do for granted. These include seemingly simple tasks such as standing up, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, showering, and eating that become wearisome, frustrating, and tedious to the elderly residents. Once strong, independent, and full of life, they depend on us completely to help them with tasks they crave to do on their own. I have been brought to tears several times while helping residents. And yet through all the pain and frustration the elderly saints endure. God is immensly faithful.
Which brings me to the final lesson that I have learned: God’s faithfulness and preservation, Isaiah 46:4: “ And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” God does not abandon his people in their old age. He still carries them through each day as he has done for the entirety of their lives. This is a comfort for us as well. We can trust that God will never leave us or cause us to suffer a pain that is too great to bear. Despite the daily pain endured by the residents, love for God is very evident. I often walk into rooms where a resident is reading the Bible or listening to a sermon on tape, or when a resident with dementia who cannot walk breaks into a song about God’s grace. One resident asks us to read her Bible and devotional to her every single night before she lays her head down to rest. It is in these moments that I tear up, seeing how faithful our God is in preserving his small remnant and giving us these elderly saints who share their wisdom and lessons through their daily walk as they near their final days.
So, young people, I encourage you to get to know the elderly saints. I even encourage you to work at a retirement home if possible. They have so much to offer us as we are entering a very vulnerable time in our lives; a time that they have already lived through. Job 12:12 speaks of this when it says, “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding”. They understand what we are going through and can give us their advice. The elderly are as much God’s children as we are, and they need to be treated that way. They are so appreciative of any visitors who come to talk because it breaks up their lonely days. It also makes them feel more connected to the church because many are physically unable to attend each Sunday. After visiting with them I guarantee you will see just how big of a blessing they are to us.
Isaiah 40:31: ”But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
*Kendra is a member of Faith Protestant Reformed church in Jenison, MI