Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Joleen Johnson shares the insights she gained by traveling 1,891 miles across the country with her grandpa. 


I recently had the privilege of driving 1,891 miles across the country with my 85 year old grandpa. Upon arriving at our destination, I had the unique opportunity to observe the daily operations of an age 55+ community (which might be thought of as a “nursing home”) for several days. A few reflections from that time follow:

As my grandpa and I ate lunch one day, I took in my surroundings and the atmosphere at this particular senior living facility. I was surprised to see so much laughter and connection. Tables were filled with those who were once strangers, now friends, sharing stories, sharing frustrations, and sharing life together. It seemed to me that many of the seniors living in this space had made the intentional choice to choose joy despite the circumstances they no longer had control over. A common phrase that I heard over the span of those several days was: “It is what it is.”

 

Nothing is the way it used to be for them. Living in this senior living facility meant that each person there had given up their home and many other familiar aspects of life that they were accustomed to. “My kids made me give it up,” was another common saying. Yet, through all this change, there was such a loving, calming spirit of acceptance as they made the best of their new situation.

As I looked around and observed the joy that radiated, I was reminded that the thought of death is perhaps more prevalent here than elsewhere. And perhaps this plays into the reasoning for joy. I was also reminded that some day I too will die. How does that influence my next choices and the way that I react to the next thing that presents itself in my life? There is much wisdom to be learned from these seniors who live each day so intentionally. With an awareness of the fleeting years and days left, I saw barriers break down between residents, friendships form, pride and independence released, and a genuine caring community built. It seemed like the thought was, “if there is a shorter time left, we might as well make the most of it.”

Reflection: If we remember that we too will die someday, what changes should we implement to make the most of this very day?