It was in the spring of the new year, when everyone was busy outdoors with their children, taking them to the playgrounds, planting gardens, building their decks for entertaining, so busy, so exhausted from the end-less lists and appointments. The Sabbath was her only reprieve from the week’s activities. In her hurry to get to church on time, Nancy sped past the nursing home on her way, almost late again, not noticing an 90-year-old church member, a gentleman being carefully lifted from his wheelchair into the nursing home’s transport van for another church service. He longed for conversation and perhaps just a friendly smile at services. All his children were gone and now a widow. So going to Sabbath services was his delight. It would all be worth the pain he felt, his muscles stiff and sore from his lack of mobility. The drive seemed so long, even though a few blocks away, his body tired and easily bruised from the bumps and jars of the rough streets. He did not want to miss even one Sabbath service. It meant being together with those he loved, even though at times he seemed irritated and out of sorts. He had no strength to speak, but in his heart he yearned and ached to say them.
Every week, he sat, hunched over in the back of church because of his frailty, so that when the children would run past him to play with other children he would not get hurt, for his bones were so worn with age, they could easily be fractured.
He yearned so much for someone to stop and talk with him, children to bring him a smile, as it brought back memories of his children and grandchildren. He longed for men and women, young and old to pause their conversations to bend down low to see his face, as his neck was stiff from age and he could hardly look up. Yet, people passed by quickly in their rush for conversation on the Sabbath. They rarely took the time to stoop low to converse with him because he seemed cranky and out of sorts.
Though the brethren did not know this, it was to be his last service.
The Sunday after Sabbath he passed away. This poem was found in the desk along with a very old tattered picture of his beautiful wife the day they were married. They looked so happy, a new life, new dreams. Here is what the poem read:
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME!!
1 Timothy 5:2 “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity”
1 Timothy 5:1 “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.”
Leviticus 19:32 “Thou shalt rise up before the white-haired, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.”
Exodus 20:12 “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
Just a reminder from God to visit the older brethren this Sabbath, even though they look distant, cannot speak or mumble words that cannot be understood or seem out of sorts. This is the heart of God. Do we not want to imitate our Father in heaven?
James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Someday it may be ourselves sitting in that chair, for time is truly fleeting. God will abundantly reward your love and concern. Bring your children with you when you visit. Teach them to honor the elderly before anyone else, and God will richly bless you, for you will be called the children of the Most High.