“The elderly pass on history, doctrine, faith and they leave them to us as inheritance,” Pope Francis preached in November 2013. “The wisdom of our grandparents is the inheritance we ought to receive. A people that does not care for its grandparents, that does not respect its grandparents, has no future since it has lost its memory.”
“Do as much as you can, for as long as you can, for as many as you can, while you still can.” – Joy Onley (inspired by a quote from John Wesley)
Five years ago, my mother started The Honors Class, a local nonprofit in Frederick, MD (my hometown) which honors senior citizens 90 years and older with various celebrations, services and gifts. The tradition continued yesterday in a beautiful setting overlooking a golf course and autumn hues, as more than 20 elders were feted by a crowd that included the newly elected mayor, Michael O’Connor, and several members of the Board of Alderman, a governing body known as City/Town Council in most jurisdictions. Those BoA leaders in attendance included Kelly Russell, Derek Shackelford, and Roger Wilson.
“Frederick is a better city because of the selfless sacrifices and contributions that our seniors have made through the years,” O’Connor wrote in the nonprofit’s “Attitude of Gratitude” event program. “They have given us so much and are so deserving of any honors bestowed on them. We celebrate these seniors today and always. And, we tip our hats to The Honors Class for your generosity and devotion to our community’s elderly.”
I have come to really love each program honoring the eldest members of our community. I’m in awe of their lives and immensely grateful for their sacrifices. I’m so proud of my mom and the members of The Honors Class for giving these seniors their flowers while they are still here to enjoy them. The elderly have added so much value to our lives just by being in it and events like this help to show them that we were listening, that we learned something from them, that they are admired and that we are incredibly blessed to call them family or friend.
My mother has always taken to the elderly. When I was a child, she ran a program through the church that paired children with an elder and we were each responsible for checking in on our “adopted grandparent” by visiting them, writing them letters, buying them gifts for their birthday and Christmas, etc. The seniors really enjoyed it, and we kids did, too. I grew up seeing firsthand both my mom’s love for the elderly and just how needed this type of program was for communities.
As an adult, I see how easy it is to overlook our seniors while we go about our busy lives. We can get so consumed with living that we forget to let our loved ones know just what they mean to us. We can take for granted that they’ll be here longer than they actually will. One senior in my mom’s group that I instantly took to, a gifted poet, died last month. During a summer event, I told her I wanted to reach out to read more of her poems. I never did and now she’s gone.
A quick phone call or visit might not mean much to us, but it could mean the world to someone else. Let’s vow to take the time to do this, if we aren’t already doing it.
I know I will. I will stop talking about doing better and will just do better. I will get more involved in my mom’s nonprofit and will honor these seniors. I will visit my Nana more often. When the thought of a person enters my mind, I will reach out then. I won’t put it off for tomorrow. Tomorrow is not promised.
I will share the flowers now. I will let them know that I appreciate them and that they played a role in shaping our community. I will tell them that their sacrifices made my road easier. That they are my heroes and sheroes.
I will help grow the work of The Honors Class and give the elderly their flowers now because, the sweet fragrance of gratitude while they can still smell it and see it and receive it and enjoy it is better than all of the eulogies in the world.