Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Carolers at Wyndcrest
Last night, a contingent from a church in Rochester came to my assisted living facility during the dinner hour. An earnest group of about 10 churchgoers led by a somewhat self important pastor sang about 15 Christmas carols – first stanza only – to us as we navigated through dinner. Even though the carolers spent most the time with their noses buried in their songbooks, it was a special experience that I really enjoyed. And it brought back memories of my church's youth group caroling in a nursing home in Iowa the early 70s.

This long ago caroling trip came back to me as I listened – the frosty Iowa winter, the antiseptic smell of the nursing home, the empty eyed residents wheeled out in the hallways to listen to our adolescent voices as we sang “Joy to the World,” “We Three Kings,” and “Silent Night.”To this day I still know the words to most of the Christmas carols that we sang. I remember walking down the darkened hallways and looking into rooms where residents lay in bed. I remember thinking “I’ll never be in a place like this.”

xFlash forward 40 odd years. I do indeed live in what would have referred to as a nursing home. Of course, assisted living was unheard of back in the 70s. The residents here are, by and large, mobile and of varying stages of cognizance. Most are quite elderly – in their late 80s or 90s. But a sizable number listened to and even sang along with the Christmas carols. Some residents that I had written off as suffering from dementia were brought back to life by the carols. Something in them responded to the words that have been sung for so many years.

Of course, some residents chose to skip the carols and return to their rooms. That’s okay because in the United States we are free to make her own choices regarding religion and almost everything else. And you don’t automatically start believing something when you get old. You retain your preferences and prejudices. You’re an individual, just like when you were young.

There I am, second from left, enraptured by the carols.
There are many things I miss now that I am living here. I miss my home, my husband, my dog, and  my individualism. Being known as someone who has talents, hopes, and dreams. Being someone other than that lady in the wheelchair. But there are advantages to living here and one of them is learning how to value my co-residents for themselves – who they are and who they were. And realizing that, despite our trials, God loves us all.

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