March 31, 1918 was a day that would forever change the trajectory of my life. On this day 102 years ago, my sweet grandma Pearl was born. She was one of a kind. She had a heart of gold. She cared for everyone as if they were her own. She had a sign in her dining room that read “people need loving the most when they deserve it the least”, that sign now sits on my kitchen counter in the same frame that hung on her wall. She lived to love. I feel like she never had to learn to become love, because she was always in my world, the purest and most real form of love this side of Heaven.
My grandma married my grandpa in 1943. Together they had 8 children, 7 boys and 1 girl (my mom). My grandma said she would have children until she had her girl, and that is what she did. She never learned to drive. She stored leftovers in old butter containers, so you never knew if you were pulling out the butter or leftover mashed potatoes. She gave the best back scratches and sewed the best quilts. She made baking an apple pie with crust from scratch seem as easy as popping a frozen waffle in the toaster. She always wrote down her recipes, but rarely did she tell you how long she baked anything…”until golden brown”.
My grandparents, both fraternal and maternal have left a lasting impression on my life. As I grew older and went to college I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. I landed on Occupational Therapy. Before graduation I had to complete 2 internships. My first, at a school working with children. I always wanted to work with kids. My second, at a skilled nursing facility. Now, while I loved my grandparents with reckless abandon, I did not like “old people.” I cried. All day. For 3 days straight. And then it happened. It was like someone flipped a switch. From that 4th day of my internship forward I have carried with me an undying love for the generations before me.
You see, what I have learned, and what I hope to pass onto my children, is that there is something so special to be learned by loving past generations. Every wrinkle in their face and scar on their hand tells a story. Some of them may remember every detail of their stories, some may only remember the beginning or end and nothing in between. The people before us had a large part of where we are today. What and honor it is to listen to their stories and one of the best gifts we can give them our time. While their physical beauty may fade, their beautiful soul never will.
Generations past are just older versions of ourselves. People fail to realize when they are stuck behind an elderly driver or waiting for an older lady to write her check at the grocery store, that they were once us, and one day we will be them. These people have a lot to teach us. In many aspects, they have a way of teaching simplicity and calm. Each older person is like their own time capsule, filled with treasures and memories, stories and lessons. They came from a time when you figured it out, when if something was broke, you fixed it. There are still generations past out there living their dreams or hoping that one day they get to reach them. The prayers of our grandmas and grandpas play a huge part in how we are still here and survived so many of the things we did when we were younger. They are our prayer warriors and our guardian angels.
Sadness takes over me when I think about how many are left alone, forgotten. The ones who once held the hands of littles, changed diapers, baked cookies. Those that sit alone on the holidays or eat dinner solo. It is in today’s world that we have become so accustom to the rapid pace of life that we forget to slow down and enjoy the ride. To take the time to serve those who once gave up so much for us. Many of the tired eyes we look into have seen far more than any of us will in a lifetime. The images burned into their memories are some of struggles and war, yet somehow they used these things to make them stronger, to become better people, to fight for freedom and blaze trails for the generations to come.
I feel like I have my grandparents to thank, specifically my grandma Pearl for teaching me to love the elderly and cherish each moment and every word spoken. I often think about how long it would take my grandma to walk through the grocery store, and how if I had the chance to do it again, I would do it for an infinite amount of minutes. That the education I obtained by loving her, in her golden years has taught me more than I believe anything ever will. How the bits and pieces of wisdom I have picked up throughout my life from my seniors have had a huge part in my marriage and raising my children, my work as a therapist, and even my passions.
I challenge you to teach your children, even your friends and peers, to acknowledge the elderly. To find the beauty in their mundane. To never forget the hands that had a part in raising them. To learn that the wisdom that can be found in the words of old people is there because of a lifetime well lived. To hold doors and carry groceries, to smile, to listen. To be the one that makes them feel like they are still somebody.
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”-Eleanor Roosevelt