Here's an inspiring Memorial Day message from Chris Carrillo, delivered at Care-age of Brookfield on Sunday, May 28th. Chris exhorts us to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty -- and especially the One who made the ultimate sacrifice to give us freedom forevermore. (If you're reading this via email, please click on the title above to access the audio.)
"Hippie is more than a way of dressing. it's a spirit which fills young people."
- Yves Saint Laurent, July 1978
When I was a kid growing up in small-town Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Odd Fellows Home was the only long-term care (LTC) facility around. We did know one woman who spent her final months there, a widowed friend of my mom’s named Sadie who’d spent her adult life cleaning other people’s houses and taking care of other people’s children. But she was the only one; all the other old people we knew lived with their children and grandchildren.
That’s just the way it was: families took care of their own in those days. But that was then and this is now, and somewhere along the line everything changed.
Today, the elderly are little more than a liability to many of today’s young people – perhaps most. Even when we’re talking about our own old age, we see ourselves as little more than potential millstones: I don’t want to be a burden to my children, we say. They have their lives to live, after all. Oh, sure, when I was able to help out with babysitting or cooking, that was one thing, but now I’d just be in the way.
So what happened?
You don’t have to be Hercules Poirot to figure it out. Clearly, the rebellion-crazed, lust-filled, pleasure-seeking "Love Generation" that came of age in the ‘60s changed the heart of this nation.
We thought we knew everything, we baby boomers. Most important, we knew not to trust anyone over 30. After all, older folks just wanted to ruin our good time. Their greed had landed themselves in joyless gray existences in which men were slaves to capitalist corruption and women were slaves to men. And they were all jealous of us; they wanted us to be as miserable as they really were, beneath those facades of contentment and purpose.
But that's a secular assessment. I think something much more insidious and evil took root in the ‘60s. I think that was when Satan himself finally succeeded in trashing the 5th commandment: Honor your father and your mother.
It’s the first of the commandments governing our relationships with each other rather than God, and should therefore be considered rather important. And yet for some reason, my generation decided to jettison it.
Honor our fathers and mothers? You’ve got to be kidding! We won’t even trust anyone over 30, let alone honor them!
Hear the hiss?
Way too many of us bought it, hook, line and sinker, and our parents paid the price. And soon enough we will, too.
One of the many ironies is that we felt guilty about what we had done – after all, God has written His law on our hearts, so that deep down we knew it was wrong to turn our backs on the elderly. We felt so guilty, in fact, that we put into power people who delight in slapping useless regulations on the facilities we put our parents in. And those regulations are so costly that they’ve caused a cascade of financial problems that will ultimately threaten the very existence of even the finest LTC facilities.
Fortunately, it’s not too late for many of us. We can choose to take our parents into our own homes as they become unable to care for themselves. Or, if that’s impossible, we can do whatever it takes to find the very best facilities, where their bodies, minds and spirits will receive even more attention than we could possibly give them. And we can then make spending time with them a top priority in our lives.
We can’t turn the clock back to the 1950s. But we can at least live as if the last half century never happened.
The following prayer was supposedly written by an aging 17th century nun, although I find that attribution a little hard to believe. Still, these are wonderful thoughts to ride into old age, where it can be harder than ever to make and keep good friends.
Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am old and growing older.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other's aches and pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but rather I ask for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet. A sour old person is one of the crowning works of the Devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen!
A topic of conversation that never gets old with the elderly is what it was like in the good ol' days. The decade will vary with the individual -- some remember the Great Depression with Waltons-esque fondness, whereas others prefer to think back on the family-friendly, Leave It To Beaver 1950s.
One of the wonderful things about this latter era was the corner store. It was a little like the quick-stop stores co-located with gas stations today, except that corner-store clerks were the owners themselves, the cash registers jingled, and the prices were far more reasonable, relatively speaking; a loaf of bread was no more expensive here than it was at the big Red Owl or Piggly Wiggly store a mile or more away, and a busy mom could send her child dashing over there to pick up a pound of sugar or a dozen eggs or anything else she'd run out of in the midst of baking a cake or fixing dinner.
Shown above is the corner store I grew up with, in Green Bay, Wis.; our house was on the other side of the same city block. On the market for $149,900 not too long ago, it has apparently been used to run a catering business in recent years. I don't suppose a little grocery store could make it these days, what with soaring property taxes and unrelenting price-competition from the giants, all just minutes away for today's two-car families.
But the memories of these tiny gems of American free enterprise still remain in the hearts of our elderly and almost-elderly. For a lively peek into the past, ask your favorite senior citizen about the corner stores they remember most fondly.
When I was only twenty-one
My hands were slim and fine;
And all the world and I well knew
None were so soft as mine.
I looked with scorn at Mother's hands
That were no longer fair.
I didn't know that love for me
Had etched the wrinkles there.
But when my mother's hands were still
Forever, ever more,
I saw such beauty through my tears
As I'd not known before.
Now that I tend my own hearth fire,
I pray, when my work's done,
My hands will look like Mother's did
When I was twenty-one.
-- Ethel Boehm Foth, 1912-2000
Here's another five-star message from Chris Carrillo, delivered yesterday at Care-age of Brookfield. Chris discussed Judges 6-8, when the Lord used Gideon and a small army of men to defeat the Midianites with nothing more than lanterns and horns. The key take-aways:
Chris illustrated his discussion with a wonderful account of "The Chosin Few" -- the story of a team of especially courageous and enterprising American soldiers who engaged in, and won, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in 1950.
I hope you enjoy this message as much as we all did!