When We Meet Grumpy Elderly People

copywrite @mimistock available for non-commerical reuse.

copywrite @mimistock available for non-commerical reuse.

I had the privilege of co-writing a memoir with an elderly woman living in Arizona named Marg. I interviewed her over the phone every Tuesday afternoon for the last 2 months.  I had to get used to her personality the first couple of times I spoke to her because she was highly irritable and immediately began ranting about her awful childhood. When I had asked simple questions during those first two initial phone interviews, she was really snippy  with me in her responses. I ended up having to pray to God to help me with own patience when working with her and asked him to help me develop compassion for this woman despite her disposition.

God immediately answered. As she began sharing more of her life with me, the struggles of her terrible childhood, the decision to marry the first person who talked to her in order to escape her parents, and the consequences of that decision that lead clear up until her 50’s, the Grace God showed her in her late second marriage with all the love and happiness any woman could dream of in this relationship, only for it to end in a terrible death that left her broken and waiting on Jesus to take her home…how could I not begin to care…to understand…?

After a couple more conversations, she began calling me “honey” and wishing me well until the following week when we would speak again. She began asking questions about me and showing interest. We formed a friendship. One that I hope doesn’t end at the culmination of this memoir. She has finished her interviews. Her last one went over her husband’s death and her daughter’s death and how it impacted her. She left her wisdom for her grandchildren and great grandchildren in hopes that they would learn from the trials in her life as well as the blessing. Her last words, asking that they seek God and his grace through Jesus because it is all that matters in the end. I wept throughout most of the last hour we spoke, listening to her words, and processing it all. She asked me after, so humbly and childlike…

” Is my story worthy of a book? Should I have shared this?”

“Oh yes, Marg. Yes, your story needs to be heard. You have been through so much that others can learn from. You’ve had so many tough experiences, but your wisdom in your reflection on them is so poignant. People need to read this. I can’t wait to read it once it is all put together.”

She seemed comforted by this. Like as if somehow this book provided her some sort of resolution or completion. Like it made it all worth it. She has been feeling very weak the last couple of weeks and thinks she is not going to be here much longer. I think this book was her last creation. Her last method of reaching out to the world before she leaves in hopes that she can leave some sort of legacy.

“Ok then. Well I’ll wait for you to call again and tell me what the next steps are after this, ” she said quietly.

I can’t wait. I hope she can see it before she goes home—complete with the speckled bird she is having illustrated for the cover of her book– a symbol of herself.

One thing I have certainly learned from this experience is that when we come across grumpy old people, to be extra compassionate toward them. Grumpy old people are broken people…people who have endured many trials and have many regrets. People who have loved and lost greatly. And people who could be either just waiting for Jesus if they know him, or just waiting for death, if they don’t. They need extra patience. And who knows….maybe if you are blessed like me, your patience will soften their hearts to open up to you and to care about you. Who knows…you could be the only person in their life who they even talk to anymore or who shows an ounce of care.

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