She didn’t say it looking for attention or for pity. She didn’t say it as a statement for dramatic effect. She said it almost in passing.
She is an almost 96-year old lady I met yesterday. I had stopped by her home at the retirement community to bring her Communion because her ride to Mass had fallen through. It was the first time she’d missed Mass in almost 60 years, she said. She doesn’t have a car – although she said that she could still drive if she’d had it. But when she moved to the retirement center a few years ago, there was a shuttle bus that she could ride to church. So she sold her car.
Selling that car was one of her big mistakes, she said. That, and selling her house on 10 acres and moving away from the community where she’d lived for her entire adult life, where all of her friends are.
She used to volunteer at the hospital and at the retirement center, but health concerns have taken her out of that.
If it wasn’t so far to church – at least 3-4 miles – she said she would walk. She always thought she would like to live next to the church so she wouldn’t have trouble getting to Mass. I suggested she call our priest and ask about moving into the spare bedroom in the rectory. We both laughed, even though the eternal optimist in me was 1/16th serious.
“I feel so useless.”
It was my turn to feel useless. I wanted to fix the situation for this sweet woman. I suggested maybe she could write letters and cards to soldiers. There is a need for that. She nodded and then held up her tremoring hands, saying that writing is more and more difficult these days.
I told her that I would be happy to give her a ride to Mass when she needed one. I wrote down my phone number even though she said she wouldn’t call me because she was sure my life was so busy. I promised that I would tell her “no” if I couldn’t help, but I’d be happy to drive her if it worked out.
We shared the Eucharist, said a few prayers, and visited for a few more minutes. Then I left to get back to my busy life. But I’m still thinking about her and wondering how many thousands of older people feel useless and what I, what we can each do, to embrace them, letting them know how needed they are in our world.