On a recent visit to a nursing home to visit an ailing relative, my mom and I had a memorable encounter with one of the residents.
Her name is Lily. She is 102 years old. She came to the door of my aunt’s room pushing a lawn chair. The lawn chair was sitting on a wooden square with wheels that must have been custom-built for her. She uses the chair as a cart. Every day she delivers ice cream to residents and to visitors. She uses coupons that a fellow resident wins at Bingo to acquire the ice cream. Lily will try to get special flavors for people but adds with a smile that she might not remember.
As our conversation continued, she asked if we knew of any overseas service men or women to whom she could send a care package. She explained that she has been sending boxes to troops for over 10 years. Several years ago a nearby veterans’ group offered to pay the postage for all her care packages which adds up to over $1,000 each year. Other people have sent her checks or given her donations to help with costs as well.
As I mulled over all Lily said, this quote came to mind:
This 102 year-old woman is doing good deeds for as many people as she can every single day. Her good deeds don’t just stay within the walls of the nursing home — she makes a positive difference for young men and women all around the world by sending care packages.
Gladys Culver was my 2nd grade teacher, and she retired at the end of that school year. She is now 104 years old! She still plays piano for her fellow nursing home residents quite often. She made a difference in so many lives in my small hometown community not only as a school teacher (for 50 years!), but also as a woman of faith in my home church. I fondly remember her playing the organ for decades of church services. She encouraged my sister and me to sing duets together and to play piano duets together. (Singing was more successful than the playing.) I don’t remember her ever not having a smile on her face.
I have a quilt that Gladys’s mother-in-law hand pieced and tied (completely made of 1970’s era double-knits). It turned out to be king-sized! Looking at the fabrics brings back so many memories of the clothes my mom made for my sister and me throughout our childhood. I don’t remember exactly how old she was at the time, but I’m fairly sure she was well over 90.
My Aunt Ruthie was still “taking care of the old people” even as she closed in on her own 90th birthday. She died just a few months after reaching 90. I still take inspiration from her work ethic, loyalty and generosity. “Be a good neighbor” and “Always vote” were the family words of wisdom, and she reminded us of these expectations frequently.
All these women embody/embodied the phrase “young at heart.” They seem/seemed to be living lives about 20 years younger than their chronological age. They do/did not let “old age” dictate what they could or could not do.
What needs to be done?
What can I do to help?
I will do it — that is what these women say/said.