We spend the majority of our time and space on this blog discussing the inception of life-- the baby days, preschool days etc.-- however, this Christmas we are near my 92-year-old grandmother, which has provided me the opportunity to think about life at the other end of the spectrum.
My parents are hosting my three young children and I at their home in San Diego while our Daddy is deployed this holiday season. They live in a cottagey home that is located several blocks away from the Assisted Living Facility in which my grandmother lives. The decision as to whether or not my grandmother needed to be moved into a near-nursing-home-type-thing was an emotional one in the family, but that is not of immediate relevance to this post. I feel that my job, in this less than ideal situation of a woman with failing mental and physical faculties, is to foster as much of a relationship as I can between her and the three great grandchildren that I have brought to town.
So far we have been here for three days, and have visited her twice. My goal was to go every day, but inclement weather sometimes makes it more difficult. We traipse into her small room every afternoon not knowing what to expect. I am filled with complicated adult emotions about whether GeeGee will call my children by the right names or have her blouse buttoned in order to avoid embarrassment. But let me tell you what I learned very quickly - my three children have none of this on their mind. They are thrilled to visit her. Eldest Daughter enjoys the opportunity to write GeeGee notes on her whiteboard, since she has been deaf for the last decade. Middle 2-year-old Boy loves to show off his light-up sneakers and even operate GeeGee's electric chair if no one is paying attention. New Little Guy is happy to be rescued from his plastic bucket and placed into warm, adoring arms, even if we aren't sure she knows who the baby is or from whence he came to be placed in her arms. My three kids explode onto the scene in those hallways full of wheelchairs and walkers, and the eyes glow.
I have spent a great deal of time philosophizing on the meaning of life at its end. We, as Catholics, are committed to defending life from conception until natural death - but things get muddled at either end. Babies are easier to defend and go "ga-ga" over than a woman who cannot control her bodily functions and spends her days going in and out of sleep in front of a television. Nonetheless, my children have, once again, taught me to see with the eyes of a child. This is a soul who prays for all of us. She spends several hours each morning in prayer - and if those prayers are muddled on their way up to Heaven, God sorts them out before they even arrive. Beyond her spiritual life, her remaining time on Earth is teaching my children the value of human connection. Her intrinsic value is obvious to all three of them and they relish the gleam they inspire in her eyes by their mere presence.
I pray that your Christmas Season will be blessed with the love of an old earthly soul and that your children will have the opportunity to bestow the same love on an elderly member of your family - even if it has to be by mail or telephone.