One of my elderly ladies is a Rachel Lynde sort of character, quick witted and blunt, formerly ambitious for herself and now for others, of which I am foremost.
“Have you met any young men?” she asked me yesterday, and last week, and the week before, by which she means single male humans. I thought of inventing a racy story, but this woman can smell a lie and an over-boiled pot from across the room, before it starts, and finds nothing amusing in either, and I mention it only that we may, as with Anne Shirley, thank heavens I didn’t say what came to mind.
And perhaps the same can be said for her, although I got in the car that afternoon feeling like this lady I love saw me as wasted and invisible, uneducated, poor, and unwilling or unable to improve myself, through college, a career or marriage. Doomed to taking care of people who want me to be different. I put my head on the steering wheel. I can’t go home like this, I thought.
So I did what the Puritans would recommend. I texted a friend. AM I OKAY? I asked, and she replied unusually fast to say, You are more than okay, because of Jesus. None of those other things could make you more. Lift up your head. And I did.
I know a street preacher who often says, Your resume offends God. This may sound harsh, but he’s found that one of the biggest things keeping people from faith in Christ is all they think they are. Obviously, it’s God who writes our stories and he surely cares about who we are, or claim to be, more than anyone, whether that’s Anne of a Billion Followers or Anne of Green Gables. But he’s not impressed by you- and certainly not me- and to the extent that we glory in ourselves, we do offend Him. Just as I am, doesn’t mean just as I am in my independence, my success and my fullness (thank goodness), but just as I am in my nothing. Just as I was as a single cell, just as I will be in my dying hour, where I have witnessed, firsthand, the vanity of the things we come to trust in. Even in our primes, at the height of our beauties and accomplishments, we are all of us still just in Christ, or not.
The hardest thing about loving elderly people, and caring for them, is death. It has a way of taking people, you know, clear off the face of the earth. Shazam. Just like that. It can happen to anybody, but it will happen to someone in their nineties, quite soon. There is little to gain, under the sun, from making such a late-hour friendship. I’ve invested a lot of time in people who won’t be there when I need them, want them, miss them. It’s not like raising children, and for some reason, I didn’t see this coming. Of course, old people will die, I would’ve said. But no, Sarah, these will be your friends. You will be asked to speak at the funerals and given keepsakes to remember them by, and then you will have to move on. Other jobs and other people will replace the time you had together. You’ll try not to make too much about the changes, because old people will die, and young people will go on living until something stops them. But at some point you will see yourself through the eyes of a Rachel Lynde: All these years, you haven’t been accumulating education, admirers or money, child. You’ve been accumulating dying friends. Where is the gain?
You’ll put your head on the steering wheel, only to raise it a little and drop it, again and again. Then you’ll ask someone to tell you the truth. My worth is not in skill or name/ In win or lose, in pride or shame/ But in the blood of Christ that flowed at the cross