by guest columnist Nancy Parker Brummett
Love is worth the risk when volunteering with older adults and getting to know and love them. Love is worth the risk even when the chances are pretty high you will also have to say goodbye to older friends in this earthly life and be separated from them for a while. Such was my loss when Lee (short for Leora Jane), who faithfully attended my weekly Bible study for over two years, died suddenly.
At Lee’s memorial service I learned so much more about her life than what I knew of her last few years spent in assisted living.
Lee loved sitting outside the facility in her wheelchair. Every Wednesday when I arrived, except on the most blustery of days, she would be by the front door. She always greeted me warmly. With her gray pixie haircut, bright blue eyes, and big smile it was a greeting I grew to love. “I’ll be back to get you!” I’d say as I rushed inside to set up for our gathering.
Once our time was over, I knew Lee couldn’t wait to get back outside. So I’d push her back to claim her spot by the front door. One day I noticed a huge pot of beautiful yellow flowers near her spot. “Oh, Lee, those are gorgeous. I’ve never seen them before. Do you know what they are?”
“I don’t,” she replied, “but I’ll find out for you.”
The next week we learned that the bright, yellow blossoms we both enjoyed so much were lantana. Lee, lantana and laughter, three things that will forever go together for me. The laughter came when I tried to maneuver Lee back out through the heavy front doors. I would forget from week to week that taking her over the threshold backwards was the best way to keep from dumping her out! Fortunately I never did dump her, but my awkward wheelchair piloting gave us both some laughs. And we never parted without a hug, after which she would pat my hand and say, “Thank you. I love you.” And I would say, “I love you, too.”
The chaplain who led Lee’s memorial service did a wonderful job. He said, “Lee would want all of us leaving here today with a smile on our faces and a smile in our hearts.” I knew that was true. I also knew she was now embracing eternal life joyfully, and was with the husband and son she had lost and grieved. Still the tears spilled down my face. I wasn’t crying for Lee, but for my own loss.
After the service, I decided to dry my tears and stop by Home Depot for a couple of things we needed. As I walked into the garden area I stopped in awe. Right before me were two very long rows of hanging baskets, all yellow lantana. I know they weren’t there earlier in the season.
It didn’t take me long to put two of the baskets in my cart. I knew that when I saw them each day they would remind me of Lee, and that love is always worth the risk even when it hurts.
Nancy Parker Brummett is the author of The Hope of Glory, A Devotional Guide for Older Adults, and Take My Hand Again, A Faith-based Guide for Helping Aging Parents. “Like” her author page on Facebook, or to learn more about her life and work, visit www.nancyparkerbrummett.com.