Instead of calling him by his first name, they started calling him Dr. Hammer. They could talk to him about his life. The care they gave grew more attentive. They knew him as a person not just a patient. All because they knew his story.
When my sister and I compiled Grandpa’s life into a book with a self-publishing program and gave it to him for Christmas several years ago, we never envisioned it going where it could tell tales to anyone beyond our family and descendants. An audience of that size was worth the effort. But then Grandpa moved into a nursing home.
Moving Grandpa to a nursing home was hard. Life doesn’t always bring about the ideal situations we would choose for ourselves, and this was one of those times. Mercifully, God still carries out His good work even in the challenging imperfections of this earth.
After a while of being at the nursing home, Grandpa asked for “his book”, the one we had crafted. We took a copy and left it on his shelf. Little by little, a marvelous thing happened.
One by one, we began hearing reports that the aides and nurses were reading Grandpa’s book. They would remark on “what a life” he had had. That’s when we started noticing the little changes like calling him Dr. Hammer once they realized that he had his Ph.D. in economics and had taught that subject at a university. They learned about his childhood and how he met Grandma in the Philippines and how their first date was a missionary meeting. Perhaps knowing about his Norwegian heritage and how he had served in the US Air Force gave them a little more understanding of his deep stubborn streak as well. In this way, Grandpa’s full life became an open book. We couldn’t sit and tell each nurse and aide these things, they didn’t always feel comfortable asking, and Grandpa couldn’t always put together the thoughts he wanted to share. But they were delighted to pick up the book when Grandpa told them to or when they were just sitting with him. It was such a blessing to us to see other people getting to know the Grandpa we had come to cherish.
Beyond that, Grandpa’s book gave us an opportunity to introduce Someone even more precious: Jesus Christ. Sure, they heard us sing and saw us read the Bible and pray, but through this little book they saw how Christ is written into our lives. No, we didn’t get to see anyone become a Christian because of it, but maybe what they read planted or watered seeds. We have prayed for that.
So, if you have a loved one who is a little bit older, I would encourage you to think creatively about how to share who that person is with family, friends and caregivers. Who knows what kind of harvest you might reap?