W is for wisdom.
Since the first day I walked into Christie Gardens, full of both hope and almost crippling fear, the residents have taught me many life lessons. They shared their wisdom, sometimes intentionally, but often without knowing it. I am the richest woman on earth because of it.
Today, I share with you some of the gifts I have been given.
Friendship Can Last a Lifetime--Betty and Dorothy have been friends since Kindergarten, and this year, they attended each other's hundredth birthday parties. So much has changed along the way, and sometimes they get frustrated with each other, but the love between them will never die. These ladies taught me that friendship is a living, growing thing that can survive all the difficulties life throws at you. It is one of the anchors that holds us together, and it holds the secrets of our history and who we are. I cherish my friends, but today I will tell them so.
Keep Living While you are Alive--This was a lesson taught to me by so many, but Bruce and John come to mind. Bruce went on a "camping experience" with us in his nineties, when he was frail and in a wheelchair. Together, he and I caught his last fish. I'll never forget the look of delight and triumph on his face as he participated in one of his favourite sports one last time. John's family knew passion for planes and took him up in one for his ninetieth birthday. When speaking of the experience a few years later, he said, "I would do it again." I know people much younger than John who stopped really living, I think I'd rather fly.
Look Beyond the Barriers--Margaret was blind, and eventually not able to walk. Years before, when she could still see, she's started to type out her memoirs for her family. These contained all kinds of delightful stories, told with Margaret's irrepressible spirit and wit. However, when she could no longer see, she stopped writing. One day, she pondered as she lay in her bed. Was there a way to finish what was in her heart, and leave that legacy for her children and grandchildren? She came up with a plan. Each night, she would phone her daughter and dictate the next section, while her daughter wrote. In a few months, they were done, and she proudly offered me a copy. It's among my treasures. As people age, there are always physical barriers. I want to live beyond the barriers.
Fight, but if You Lose, do it with Grace--When Wilma moved to the care sections because she had suffered a stroke, she was angry at how her body had betrayed her. She fought to be able to walk with a three-pronged cane and railed at the knowledge that she couldn't do up her own bra. Her inabilities angered and frustrated her. But when she realised that this was her new reality, she accepted it and allowed the love and grace within her to shine. She was the one who most effectively ministered to me when my husband died. I pray I will have the strength to fight and the grace to live with what has been given to me.
Interest in Others is a Gift--When I visited with Alice in her room, it was all about me. She knew my children's names, their ages and what they were up to. She wanted to know my weekend plans, and on Monday, she asked how they turned out. At one hundred years old, her face was animated at she listened to me talk of my life. She gave the same gift to everyone--family, staff and visitors. Everyone left feeling important, validated and special. Lord, help me look beyond myself and bless those who cross my path.
Laugh Whenever You Can--When I think of laughter, so many faces fill my mind. Winnie, who told the piano tuner who was plinking away as he did his job, "If you canna play the thing, leave it alone!" Eva who tried to set my co-worker up with a serviceman who came to fix the dishwasher. Len, who asked what I was doing Saturday night, and then said, "Want to do something?" Maggie, who danced to the piano music and encouraged everyone to sing. Marguerite, who had the most incredible wardrobe but always had room for one more...and on it goes. I've learned that laughter has nothing to do with the externals such as eyes, ears and legs that don't work. It doesn't need my mind to be sharp or my memories to remain. Laughter bubbles from within with contagious droplets splashing on everyone. I want to laugh every day until the day I leave.
"Wisdom belongs to the aged and understanding to the old." Job. 12:12 NLT