Yesterday I Was a Time Traveler

I lived in two different times yesterday.  The first time was a conversation between Rupert, Ron and myself (Rupert being our associate pastor, Ron being our music minister and me being myself).  We were grappling with how to reach the late teens and twenty-somethings.  How do we “do church” in such a way that it connects for them?  On the whole, this generation doesn’t like to have things be too organized or polished, it speaks of being inauthentic.  Nor do they like being told things in a formal teaching or preaching situation but, instead, prefer dialogue.  We want to reach this generation, for there are far to few of them in our churches today.  HOw?  We’ve started a unique Saturday night service for them, and we’re just trying to figure out how to do it right.

The second time (the second destination in my day of time travel) I visted Aileen in an extended care facility.  She’s 101 years old, the oldest member of our congregation.  She and I, we go way back.  I’ve been her pastor for 32 years.  I’m not sure she recognized who I was, though she was very glad to see me.  I shouted to be heard.  You often shout prayes when visiting the elderly.  They too, can be a challenge to connect with.

I’m called to pastor both groups — the twenty-somethings and the shut-ins.  Going from one group to the other, that’s time travel!  It’s always been a challenge for the generations to relate.  After all, we’re coming and going at different times here on earth and can easily be ships passing in the night.

Some reading this blog are part of what’s called the sandwich generation.  You’re giving some kind of support to both children (or grandchildren) and parents (or grandparents).  That’s a challenge!

It seems to me that part of the richness of life comes from accepting this challenge of relating to people of another generaion.  God has so much for us to gain from having relationships with those both younger and older than us.  It’s the kind of time travel that stretches you!

“Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4

“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

Dave

7 responses to “Yesterday I Was a Time Traveler

  1. Susan December 3, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    The sandwich generation that you wrote about really hit home with me. In the past six weeks my mom, who suffers with moderate dementia, had seizures and subsequently we were told she had to have 24 hour care. My 86-year-old dad, of sound mind but frail with arthritis, struggled to accept that his 76 year old wife would have to be in a nursing home. Two weeks later, my dad fell at home and broke his hip. He is now in the same nursing home as my mom. Six weeks ago they were functioning fairly well at home. I am the only sibling, as my brother passed away 14 years ago, and it has been difficult to deal with all the issues that involve hospital stays, nursing home admissions, their emotional needs, and driving between their house to check on it, my house, the nursing home, and take care of my 10 year old, my 8 year old, my husband, and my job. My children have managed pretty well, but the back and forth gets to them sometimes and being shuffled from one home to another during the crisis parts were difficult. People have told me I’ve been very strong through this, but it has been exhausting. I guess what I wanted to say is that every life has meaning and importance, even those who are in nursing homes. I look at the many residents that I see daily now and think that they used to be young, vibrant and energetic. How difficult it must be to lose independence!

    I’ve told some of my friends that when we learned the 10 commandments so long ago as children, the commandment “honor thy father and mother” was part of obeying and listening to what they said. Now it has taken on new meaning for me. I hope that the decisions I’ve had to help my dad make about my mom, him, and their needs truly “honor” them. It has been particularly difficult to see my mom every day the way she is now with the dementia making her paranoid and see her excessive restlessness and agitation. My children and I had Thanksgiving dinner with her at the nursing home and my husband spent a dinner with my dad who was still in the hospital at that time. My mom pestered me continuously about going home and wanting a key to her home. After a few minutes of listening to me try to change the subject and her persisting on the home track, my 8 year old said, “Yia-yia, can’t we talk about something nice?” She looked at him and she melted. She allowed there to be a change of subject. I’m blessed that my children regularly hug her and want to take her for walks around the nursing home. My children have been my “bridge” to help me adjust to the changes in my parents!

  2. Dave Claassen December 3, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Susan,

    Wow! I was going to say you have your plate really full, but perhaps a better image is of the juggler trying to keep several plates spinning at the same time!

    You’re right about the commandment to honor parents. It really does have as its primary meaning of adult children taking care of their elderly parents.

    Obviously, this is part of God’s calling for you right now, as difficult and challenging as it must be. One of my favorite phrases is that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

    Blessings,
    Dave

  3. Susan December 4, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I like what you wrote about God qualifying the called. How true. Thank you for responding to my note and your prayers. I like what you have written on your blog. Your outreach is insightful and inspirational.

    God’s blessings to you and anyone who reads this.

    Susan

  4. Marcena December 6, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Susan’s comment really blessed me. As I read it I thought about my parents. Both were lost in tragic ways three years apart and I miss them so and my oldest sister who was stricken with a fatal disease after my parents died. All three of them would have needed extended care, but knowing they are together in heaven enjoying their love for each other in endless joy with God gives me peace.

    Mom was killed in 1998 at age 64 after witnesses said she mysteriously pulled out in front of a semi on her way to take my sister’s cat to the vet and sat in the road. She survived for three days in a coma in the hospital while we all stood by her side and prayed for her to come back to us. God took her home after we all, including my father, prayed about the decision to let her go off life support according to her living will. My Mom was vibrant, forever young, a loving grandmother and mother, but suffered for years with depression, anxiety and pain of years of torment about her own inadequacies as a daughter, wife, mother and sister. One thing she was very good at was caring for elderly in nursing homes and children in preschools. She worked in a hospital and volunteered in this aspect. Many patients commented about her loving kind nature. She cared for her own mother and father both who lived out their last days in nursing homes. Although it seemed she could never find peace for herself, she managed to find it for everyone else. We all know persons like that. When the doctors came to tell us her brain was swollen beyond healing and she would never recover, they said the best that could happen if she woke from the coma would be her life in a nursing home where she would never know us and never function without total care. Life’s quality for her would be 0. God needed her there, not here, and we dealt with that in making our decision. He knew she would have peace with Him she couldn’t find here. She found Christ at a service in Columbus where she lived at the church pastored by Ron Parsley. I personnally notified him when she went home to be with the Lord since she always said his messages brought her to Christ.

    Dad was taken home at age 74 after suffering the third of three major heart attacks on Labor Day 2001, just days before the 9-11 attack…a day everyone would be grieving for love ones lost. My father continued his grieving for my Mom making it so difficult to move on, but he did a wonderful job as he carried on several years as a wonderful father, despite his own grief. God took him home to reunite with Mom and now they are together again.

    The hardest part of Susan’s message to read is the part about the caring for her parents in their moments of disablement in the nursing home.

    Nanda, my oldest sister, was taken home by the Lord in March of 2005 at age 53. She was 14 months older than I am. Nan, as we called her, was a mother of three adult children, divorced and very, very lonely before she received her diagnosis of ALS, (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in the spring of 2003. She suffered and grieved so when my Mom was killed and moved in with my Dad to help him grieve. They both spent their lives in grief and to cope began drinking heavily daily, but Dad tried his best to move on by taking camping trips out west, spending time on his lake property with his daughters and grandkids and snowmobiled regularly with our family at his cottage in Michigan. Nan, on the other hand, dropped into deeper and deeper depression and fell away from her faith. To deal with the grief she resorted to alcohol, prescription drugs and sleeping pills most of the time, never eating healthy and stopped working. I believe to this day, when we “give up” we open our bodies to attack and our immune systems shut down. This is what I believe happened to Nan. As we cared for Nan in her last three years in her struggle with this horrible, horrible disease it brought me and my other two sisters so close to each other and to the Lord, that we now see so many things….in the loss of our parents and sister. One, Mom would have experienced such pain and grief if she had lived to be here when her oldest child was struck with a fatal disease. Two, Mom and Dad would have had to live through the death of their oldest daughter. But God took them both home before this occurred and paved the way for Nan to find both her loving parents waiting for her.

    Susan’s message is a message of love….for her parents and for God’s way of using her. We all find understanding of His way, perhaps years after we go through a crisis we are in….in my case the loss of three family members, but His love always comes shining through no matter what. I miss my parents and my sister so so much, but know they are fine…healthy and at peace. Nan is free from the ugly grip of ALS, walking, talking and happy. I often wish I had them here, but God knew it wasn’t best for them to be here. God is now using me in so many ways to know His love can conquer and overcome depression, loneliness, grief and the most of all sting of death!

  5. Susan December 27, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Marcena, I don’t know if you’ll go back in time to read this … I certainly have not checked back on this website for three weeks. You shared very deep feelings and described so many heartbreaking and yet touching stories of your parents and dear sister. I am humbled by what other people have gone through and are going through. Beauty certainly arises from the “ashes” of our lives when we are open to it.

    My mom is now at a specialized Alzheimer/dementia facility, a very nice one. However, my dad and I shed a lot of tears over the separation for them yet again. They spent three weeks together in a nursing home — my dad for rehab from his hip fracture, and my mom for the dementia. An opening came up and although my dad told me to go ahead, I felt misgivings about separating them. The staff at the nursing home felt she would benefit from specialized care, however how do you separate the advice from professionals vs. the pull of your own heartstrings? After the arrangements were made, my dad had second thoughts. The anguish of these decisions … well, you begin to question yourself. As I filled out the four-page social history about my mom for the dementia staff, I was reminded of what a vital, dynamic, upbeat person she always was. It was a labor of love to fill out that questionnaire. I was proud to write down all the things she was interested in and the great care and enthusiasm she put into her interests and loved ones. She grew up without a mother and yet she was a loving one to my brother and I. She had carried her heartbreak of my brother’s sudden death (at age 30) with her. Someone visited with her when I was there the other day. They told her she looked good (although she isn’t as made up as she always was). She got self-conscious, but I put my hand on her knee and said that her light shines from within. She said, “Do you think?” I told her I know so.

    I’ve often thought (in a very spiritual way) that there are worse things than death for people of faith. We are and always will be connected by our faith in the Lord and our trust in Him. Love is a very strong heartbeat.

  6. Dave Claassen December 29, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Susan & Marcena,

    Both of you reflect the light of Christ in lives that have seen much darkness. I know, you probably don’t always feel like “shinning examples” of a follower of Christ but at such times it’s good to remember that we’re really not the light of Christ but only the lampshade! He’s the light that shines through us!

    Dave

  7. Susan February 21, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Dave, I wanted to let you know that my dear mom passed away on February 4th. I think she was just short-circuiting inside and she became unable to swallow anymore, a condition not uncommon (I’ve learned) from end-stage dementia. I guess I realized from the beginning of January that I was going to lose her, but she was so loving and affectionate for the entire month. She told us over and over again (and the staff) how much she loved us and my children gave and got great love from her. About a week before she died, my son and I threw her a kiss as we left from visiting her. We will always remember how she brought her hand to her mouth to throw us a kiss. She left it there as we walked out. Two weeks before she died, she told me (and the words weren’t easy to come out) that, “The Lord has given us this little bit of time together.” She knew, and we both got teary-eyed, but mainly because of the blessings the Lord did truly give to us. I told myself I would be OK if I couldn’t be by her side when the time came. We had taken my dad in to live with us after his rehab was over … Somehow, I found time to visit her in the morning before work and after dinner in the evening. On her deathbed, I read many Psalms to her and played the byzantine hymns from our church background (Greek Orthodox). During her final time, I had put in her favorite Andreas Bocelli CD “Sacred Arias” and I felt both of us relaxing. Her great moment came during a beautiful rendition of Silent Night. I felt such an elation for her, as I knew where she was going. I knew the Lord had blessed me to be able to be with her. I wanted to tell you because you were so kind and really touched something in me with what you had written. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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