A common refrain from those living in care facilities is, “I just want to go home.” This sentiment is most often expressed by those in memory care who may not be able to remember why it was that they needed a safe, different environment in which to live. One facility I visited installed a bus stop in the hallway. Just sitting on the bench waiting for the bus seemed to calm the residents wanting to go home until the desire to do so passed them by.
This makes us sad, but we can understand that all hearts yearn to go home—especially at Christmas time. If we can’t take our seniors home for Christmas in the real sense, what can we do to bring home to them?
A good place to start is with the story of the first Christmas recorded in Luke, Chapter 2. Although our elders may have heard this passage of Scripture read in church services every Christmas of their lives, they may not have thought about the fact that none of the main characters in the story were home on the first Christmas.
Joseph had once lived in that region which is why he was required to transport his pregnant wife on a donkey, taking her with him to register for the census in Bethlehem. But it wasn’t home to him. Mary likely had never been there before. She was young, about to give birth, and far away from her family and familiar surroundings. Surely she yearned to go home.
And then there’s the Baby Jesus himself. The star of the story. He certainly wasn’t home. He left the glories of heaven, where He reigned next to Almighty God, and humbled himself to come to earth as a tiny baby born in a stable surrounded by animals. Jesus later said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me…For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…” (John 6:38, 40). He left His celestial home for a significant purpose.
Sharing this perspective on the Christmas story may lead to some heartfelt discussions about home. It’s common for elders to let messages of discouragement bring them down, especially over the holidays. They may remember all the years they decorated their homes, baked for days, wrapped presents, set beautiful tables, served scrumptious meals, and then they wonder, “Did any of it matter? Does anyone even remember those Christmases?”
The best gift you can give an elder parent is to tell them, “I remember.” If possible, go through old photos and create a small album of photos from Christmases past. Include recipe cards for favorite annual treats or other mementos of your family Christmases.
As you look at the album with your loved one tell her, “I’ve tried to make your crescent cookies but they never turn out as good as yours.” Or tell him, “I really believed those footprints you made in the snow were from Santa!” It doesn’t matter what you share, just that you say, “I remember.” With or without an album of photos, sharing fond Christmas memories with the elders you love may be the best gift you can give them. Merry Christmas to all!
First published in Pikes Peak Senior News, Winter 2019-2020.