Friday, June 23, 2017

When Your Neighbor is Dying of Loneliness But You're Too Busy to Care

Sam loves being on hospice. 

He has a nurse, an aide, a social worker, and a chaplain. Over the course of a week, that's a lot of visits. 

When I stopped by after work yesterday, He was full of news. The nurse had been by. The aide had come later and helped him with a bath. A friend from church had come by with her grandson. They'd brought peach pie and stayed for a visit. Sam had eaten the pie for lunch. More accurately stated, he'd eaten it instead of lunch. 

"You had a lot of visitors today, Sam. Are you tired out?"

"Oh, no. It's nice to have so many people stopping by now. I like it. I was pretty lonely before them Hostages started coming." 

"Hostage" is what he calls Hospice, but, in an all-too-real way, Sam was the hostage, and they've helped release him.

Even though Sam talks to me twice a day, sees me at least once every day, goes to church with me on Wednesday and Sunday, and spends lots of time with me Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he's been lonely. 

The truth is that Sam sees me more than I see him. Between ministry, home, and Sam, there's always something that needs to be done, always something going undone. 

There are days when I just want to be still and quiet for a few minutes as I clean my house or do laundry. I don't really want to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee and listen one more time. I usually do, but, I'm ashamed to admit, I'm not always completely present. My body's there, but, sometimes, my head is somewhere else entirely.

I'm so independent and self-contained that I could go days without seeing anyone else and never notice, but not Sam. He's very social. Because he doesn't drive anymore (except on my driveway), he's become isolated from the rest of the world.

I've had to surrender my need for stillness and quiet to meet his need for companionship, and I haven't always liked it. 

I listened to Sam tell me about how nice it was to have someone to talk to and, for a millisecond, I bristled inside. I'm not enough? How much more does he expect me to do? How much more am I supposed to sacrifice? I thought. But, just as quickly, I realized the answer. No more. Sam knows I'm doing all I can do. That's why he hasn't complained. He's sat in his house and quietly grieved the loss of human contact. 

It's been killing him.  

It hurts me to admit that, but it's true. The only "therapeutic" thing Hospice has done for Sam has been the thing he needed most. They've spent time with him, and he's brightened considerably. He's eating better, and he's stronger. More hopeful. More energetic. Even his mental status has cleared a little. 

He's needed conversation with someone other than me. Someone in addition to me.

Sam's better off than most. He and I both realize that. We're grateful I can help him, but I'm not enough. 

There are a lot of senior citizens in Sam's situation. Trapped at home. Alone. If there aren't family members nearby, they can go days without seeing anyone. Maybe even if there are family members near. 

We could do better than this, body of Christ.

Senior adults like Sam are full of wisdom and amazing memories, and they love to share... when they have someone who'll listen, someone who'll choose to be fully present. 

You'll never see it on a death certificate, but some of the wisest people in our towns are dying of loneliness. They yearn for human contact while we busy ourselves with things that, in many ways, have no eternal significance. 

I'm living proof that no one person can do it all, but all of us could do a little. If we each took time to visit one elderly person living alone, we could make a difference. 

If we showed appreciation for their wisdom, they'd share it. If we listened appreciatively to their stories, they'd tell us of adventures we can't even imagine. 

Eight or nine decades ago, children were much more adventurous. Their fun didn't come from an electronic device. It was creative and outrageous and real. 

We need to hear those stories. Our children need to hear those stories. 

Thousands of elderly adults like Sam need your help. Your time. Your listening ear. Why not take a few minutes and make a visit? 

One day, we'll be the elderly people spending too much time alone. Let's set an example we want others to follow for us. 

Thirty minutes is not too much to give. 

When I thanked the hospice nurse yesterday, she said something I know from experience is true. "The blessing's mine. It's a joy to spend time with Mr. Sam." 

She's right. It's a great joy.

"The King will reply, 'Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40 niv 
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Life Isn't Funny But God is Still Good

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

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