Special memories formed with the aged.

Simple Love at Nazareth House

“Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” (Job 12:12)

By An Le (Second Year Seminarian)

As seminarian from Corpus Christi College, what a privilege it was for Christopher, my fellow seminarian and myself, to be sent to live and learn on our pastoral experience with the elderly at the Nazareth House of the Sisters of Nazareth in Camberwell, Victoria from 2nd to 21st July, 2017. During the time with the residents, the Sisters and staff, we were given a number of lifelong lessons. One of the most inspiring and memorable lessons which has shaped me and my future mission is love.

 An Le - second year seminarian

An Le - second year seminarian

The love of the Sisters reaches out to people. First of all, this love is for the residents especially for those who are dying. On the very first day, when Christopher and I started the work, we were taken around the House. 

We came to the room for the dying and were told that the Sisters have never let anyone die alone. At this moment, my heart was moved.

 

Then, while living in the House, I saw the Sisters continuously visiting and encouraging the last-stage residents and companying them with prayers. The Sisters not only pray with the residents when they are with them but also remember them in their daily prayers when they pass away. In addition, their love is clearly expressed through hospitality. They opened their arms widely to welcome us and created the best opportunity for us to be with the elderly to learn and have a caring experience for our pastoral mission. At first, they welcomed us with smiles and presence and on the last day, they “welcomed” us with thanks and gifts. While we were residing there, they welcomed us with constant care for our daily needs. Thank you, Sisters for your love and living example of prayer.  

Love is additionally manifested in the daily care of the staff particularly for the elderly. Every early morning, while all of the residents may remain in their deep sleep, some of the staff come to watch their sleep with medication gently and carefully prepared so that the sleep is not disturbed and their lives are well cared for. Moreover, others work arduously to keep the residents’ house clean all of the time. As a new day begins, the residents are assisted and provided with whatever is best for them that can be brought from their cuppa to main meals, from doing exercise to playing games, from walking to sitting and lying. At the end of the day, the residents are sleeping under the constant attention of the staff. All of those above remarkable services for the residents from the Nazareth House staff might not be maintained without their love. Thank you for your loving service.     

Above all, the love of the elderly residents touched my heart when I lived there and I shed tears when I left. Every day, I came to visit some of them and listened to their stories. I came to learn the great love they have for their children and grandchildren. They are commonly thought to stay at the nursing home to have a better care. It is obvious that they do. However, their care for their children is so much greater than what might be thought of. Some of them might be presumed to be forgetful but they remember their children in their heart and prayer every day for them. They think of them, miss them and hope for them to be happy always with their children. Most of the residents share the common reason that they wanted to come to the Nazareth House to limit their joy in order for their children to have more joy, to lessen their dream for the children to dream big, to shorten their time for the children to prolong theirs with their children, to shorten their journey for the children to travel further, to carry their own burden so that their children can more easily carry their own children’s burden.  

Above all, the love of the elderly residents touched my heart when I lived there and I shed tears when I left.

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Above all, the love of the elderly residents touched my heart when I lived there and I shed tears when I left. Every day, I came to visit some of them and listened to their stories. I came to learn the great love they have for their children and grandchildren. They are commonly thought to stay at the nursing home to have a better care. It is obvious that they do.

However, their care for their children is so much greater than what might be thought of. Some of them might be presumed to be forgetful but they remember their children in their heart and prayer every day for them. They think of them, miss them and hope for them to be happy with their children.

Above all, the love of the elderly residents touched my heart when I lived there and I shed tears when I left. Every day, I came to visit some of them and listened to their stories. I came to learn the great love they have for their children and grandchildren. They are commonly thought to stay at the nursing home to have a better care. It is obvious that they do. However, their care for their children is so much greater than what might be thought of. Some of them might be presumed to be forgetful but they remember their children in their heart and prayer every day for them. They think of them, miss them and hope for them to be happy always with their children. Most of the residents share the common reason that they wanted to come to the Nazareth House to limit their joy in order for their children to have more joy, to lessen their dream for the children to dream big, to shorten their time for the children to prolong theirs with their children, to shorten their journey for the children to travel further, to carry their own burden so that their children can more easily carry their own children’s burden.

Their sharing reminds me of a story that my Dad told me when I was a boy. The story is about a father feeding his baby with a spoon. He said: “every day, the father feeds his baby with a spoon, he is so happy to do that and he feels so much happier as the baby finishes the spoon of food. Every time the spoon is finished, the father smiles thrillingly and he tries to make some funny gestures by clapping his hands, making a funny face, creating animal-like sounds in order to make his child smile with him and eat some more food. This is repeated over and over as the spoon is finished the father and his child smile. One day, the father gets old and he is unable to manage his life while his baby grows up as a man. Now, the father is fed by his own son with a spoon as the son was. As the food in the spoon is eaten, there are no smiles or jokes, or any sound like before except tears from both.” As my Dad stopped there, I was unable to understand the story and I simply asked Dad: “Why do they both cry?” he nodded his head, kept silent for a little while and replied to me: “My Son, later you will understand.” Now, due to the life sharing of the residents, I may have a bit more understanding of what the story is about and how great the love of the residents is for their children and grandchildren.

The love of the residents also goes beyond their family boundary. The residents show their loving care for one another. The less fragile care for the fragile with simple gestures by giving a cup of water, preparing a chair and accompanying with time, presence, prayers as well as supportive words and a sense of humour in order to create the most joyful atmosphere for others. Moreover, their love is generously extended to Christopher and me by concerning for our daily needs, which they are constantly on the lookout for.  Some of them give us one banana when they have two and one T-shirt when they have another. On my last day, I came to say goodbye to the residents. One of the residents tried to look for something to give me but he was unable to find anything to give me. Then he asked me to help him take off one of his T-shirts. At first, I thought it might be a bit hot for him and he was unable to manage to take off due to his health, however, as the T-shirt was taken off he held it for a brief time, gave it to me and said: “I want to give you my T-shirt as a gift.” I felt deep humility.  Other residents gave me their tears as I said goodbye and walked away, then I looked back at them sitting in a chair at a corner of their room, it was so hard for me to leave. It was really an “easy come hard to go” experience. My heart followed and treasured their tears of love. Thank you, the residents of the Nazareth House, for your love for us.       

In short, what a lovely and blessed time for Christopher and myself to live and work at the Nazareth House! One of the invaluable lessons which we have had from the elderly residents, Sisters and staff is love which will never fade away in time and become our future mission. Therefore, how wise and happy for those who open their hearts to elderly people because they are “the example of love, dedication and wisdom,”[1] as Pope Francis said.   

 

[1]http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/10/15/pope_francis_elderly_bear_witness_to_enduring_truths/1265369