Not long ago, an older friend had to move from her apartment in an independent-living center to go to a skilled nursing facility over an hour away. She is almost 100 years old, and her vision has worsened greatly over the span of the last year. On the day she was scheduled to leave, she told her friends that she would have lunch with them one final time before leaving with her niece. However, when lunchtime arrived, she did not come. As her friends began to show concern about her whereabouts, a staff person finally told them that their friend had quietly left earlier in the day.
At first it seemed that her behavior was a thoughtless act, leaving without telling her dear friends good-bye. Soon though, everyone discovered the real reason she had left without a grand farewell. She had been so afraid that she would be overcome with emotions, she chose to leave early to try to avoid tears and sadness. One thing I’ve learned about older adults is that their families and friends often fail to understand the emotional toll caused by major life transitions.
Most older adults worry that when they move away, they will never again see their friends. We should remember that no one gets to the far end of life’s timeline without experiencing deep loss, including the loss of life-as-we-have-known-it. As churches, families and friends, we should not forget that fact. We should do all we can to nourish the friendships of older adults and help prepare them for upcoming changes.