• Jill Jarrell Newsome

Live Your Life & Forget Your Age

When I was in college I worked as a weekend receptionist at a retirement home. This was one of my favorite jobs of all time!. I had so many grandparents! I often visited on my day off. One Thanksgiving my family came there and had Thanksgiving with all of my "extended family". Mom and I still laugh about the fun we had that Thanksgiving! One of the greatest things about our times together was we laughed a lot! Laughter is such good medicine for us all! When I would walk in to work I was smiling and they were smiling!

Each morning when I got to work I made my rounds hugging all my grandparents. This one particular man always kissed me and I always moved my head to the side so his lips would land on my cheek! I thought I was slick. When Mike and I started dating he had to come out and meet everyone. When I introduced him to this particular man he told Mike, "I try to get those lips every day but she turns that head!"

One of my favorite ladies, Thelma, had Alzheimers. She was an identical twin and her sister had died but Thelma did not remember that. Most of the rooms were set up the same so when you walked in the door you were facing the dresser and large mirror over it. Thelma and I would walk down the hall and if a door was open she would glance in and see her reflection in the mirror. She would run in the room yelling for her sister but by the time she got to the dresser she knew there was a mirror so she thought her sister had left. She would cry and ask me why her sister always does that to her. It would break my heart!

Rose, was a fan favorite! She had Alzheimers and was very happy and had managed to stay on the retirement home side. Rose had lived a privileged life and was very proper. You never saw Rose without lipstick and pearls! She was beautiful and always smiled as she sat in the living room to "greet" everyone who came in. Rose knew all of the proper things to say. Rose never knew my name and did not remember anything for more than two or three minutes. I had a grandfather with Alzheimers so I had an extra special place for Alzheimer's patients!

One morning I walked in and a lady was unloading on Rose. The lady was crying. Apparently her husband was dying on the nursing home side. She had walked in and was greeted by Rose. Rose asked everyone how they were so this lady shared! The lady sat there for over thirty minutes sharing her heart and crying. When the lady got up I heard her ask Rose not to repeat anything she had shared with her. I wanted to tell the lady, "your secrets are safe with Rose!"

Maude would invite me every evening for a mint julep.....I actually thought of her this year at the Kentucky Derby! I watched Maude's heart break as she buried her husband and then date the only man there with a driver's license so then she got bullied by a lot of women. They would go to TGI Fridays and we would get a call that Mr. L was too drunk to drive so we would have to go get them. They married and Mr L had a heart attack on their honeymoon. He later became abusive and they separated. Maude was just lonely.

These wonderful people touched my lives in a powerful way. As Maude told me, just because she was old did not mean she did not have the same feelings inside. She also told me just because she was old did not mean that she had not already experienced what I was going through right then. I gleaned much wisdom from my friends at the retirement home. This makes me think of Psalm 92:14, "They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green," Even Rose was teaching me and her memory was gone! God was still using her.

These friends were going through some tough times and no longer living in their homes. Some had few or no visitors. Isaiah 46:4, "And I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety." It is comforting to know that God will always carry us...to the end. He will never leave us. Deuteronomy 31: 6, "...He will not leave you or forsake you.” And even in this time of your life God can use you to make a difference! The advancement of God's kingdom never stops!

Though my friends have been gone for 20-30 years, I think it is so wonderful that I still think of them so often. I learned so much from them and they give me a lot to think about. Are we a bright spot in someone's life? Are we encouraging others? Are we being a friend and listening to others? Are we letting God use us even in our difficult circumstances? Are younger people able to glean wisdom from us?