My morning’s tutorial in aging gracefully

Though my rotator cuff woes have sidelined me from my part-time caregiving gig, the agency I work for assured me that this week’s placement was companionship only. No heavy lifting, no vacuuming, no wheelchair pushing. I was to simply hang out with a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who is living in a nursing home.

“Millie” (not her real name) was very subdued the first day I was with her. She replied in brief murmurs to the conversation I kept going through my visit with her. When I returned this morning, the visit seemed to be going in the same basic direction as it had on Wednesday…until I said something about the work world. She launched into a 45-minute monologue about the ineptitude of her old boss, the unfairness of her work conditions, the lousy raises she’d received over the years, and her attempts to get some justice by complaining to various higher-ups.

Millie’s frustration with her long-ago job was as fresh for her as today’s headlines. Actually, fresher, because today is in soft focus around her. 

It was a portrait of the power of the way that our low-level irritations lodge in our souls. I’ll admit that I often think of the necessity to forgive (and forgive again) in terms of Big Hurt. My visit with Millie provided me a reminder that the need to forgive extends to the bumps and bruises that come to each one of us as a part of everyday life. All those unforgiven daily annoyances have a cancerous cumulative effect.

Do I want to carry a bad boss…or the irritation of a scraped fender…the sting of being overlooked for a social gathering…or the smart of a snarky comment…with me into tomorrow? Even if I forget my name and yours, do I want to give a thoughtless “friend” or an inept boss that much airtime in my crowded brain? Millie, who once had a very busy and creative life, taught me that when the nice people I’ve known fade into the mist, unforgiveness keeps those adrenaline-jolting irritants center stage.

So tonight I pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and hope that they’ll quietly exit stage right as I do.

Forgiveness is God’s invention for coming to terms with a world in which people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply. He began by forgiving us. And He invites us all to forgive each other. – Lewis B. Smedes
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