This morning my family and I ventured out to Westminister Manor, a retirement community adjacent to our neighborhood. We were volunteering to spend some time doing crafts with the residents. We walked in and were quickly directed to the second floor to go meet the group of families and elderly we’d be with for the morning.
As we walked over, the sweet residents came into view. They were quite old, likely in their eighties and onward. Many sat listlessly in their seats as a handful of children and adults did some crafts around them. A few were able to join in to varying degrees. I felt a little sadness draw over me, though mixed with gratitude for being there. I helped my girls pick some crafts and we sat down next to a few ladies. One of the them was deep in sleep, not able to move much on her own. The second was more alert and observing with a marker in hand for coloring, though in glancing at her paper she had little control to color much. Two other ladies were sitting right beside us. They were sisters, Josie and Colleen, five years apart. I could tell they were alert enough to converse. We quickly discovered that both had been teachers, one of music and the other of language arts. Colleen asked me how and why we had come to Westminister Manor. I explained to her that we were there to volunteer and spend some time with them. She continued to proudly tell me how her sister, Josie, had a bachelor’s, a master’s and a phd in music. Josie looked on with little reaction. We continued to chat for the next hour with pauses and silence in between. Josie asked Sonia a few times what she was making, to which Sonia responded with a smile each time saying, “A bumble bee”. Over the course of the hour, Colleen asked me several times why we were there and also continued to tell me many times, proudly like it was the first, that her sister had a bachelor’s, a master’s and a phd in music. Each time I responded like it was my first as well. It was a lot to take in. I asked them if they enjoyed being at Westminister. They said it was better than living alone.
After a while, Josie wanted to go back to her room. Colleen asked if she wanted to sit with her and look out the window for a while, though Colleen whispered to me that sitting out at the crafts table was more interesting than their rooms. They were so sweet and I could just imagine them together in their youth.
For that hour I sat juxtaposed between my little girls and these sweet elderly ladies. I couldn’t help but feel moved. It was a reminder of how precious life is, the entire way through. Life and the lives around us deserve attention and care, whether it’s the lady who slept through the entire morning only to wake once to say hi, or the children who came with their families to offer their time and energy to that space. Every life is significant and sacred, no matter the stage, no matter the circumstance, and today I felt immensely grateful for having some time with Josie and Colleen.