It was important yesterday morning to take 2 min on our doorstep with the neighbours in quiet reverence, remembering those who died in past wars and praying for those caught up in conflicts in our world today.
Some of my older friends are showing great resilience during these days of pandemic. They are coping patiently with the unpredictability of rules around restrictions and the great uncertainty of when all this will end. I’m sure part of their secret is that they lived through the war. They have a wealth of life experiences, tragedy and adversity. Even for those not called up to active service, rationing and air raids were part of ‘normal’ life. Despite the fears and horrors of wartime, my older friends reminisce about a great community spirit.
Resilience is a buzzword these days. We all need and want to be those who bounce back from trials, turn hardships into opportunities and live lives with meaning.
When we reflect on this period I think we’ll all remember Captain Tom’s heroic 100 garden laps by his 100th birthday. It was at the height of the first wave of the pandemic that his strength and determination made him a beacon of hope all around the world, motivating kindness and generosity as £33 million were raised for the NHS. Reflecting on his army days, his message was one of solidarity in the face of an enemy. He saw the importance of pulling together for mutual support.
It was Captain Tom who inspired Rebecca Parker in her care home in Lanark. This 98 year old with arthritic fingers and curved spine embarked on a 100 day musical marathon, playing the baby grand piano for the NHS. The staff said her melodies filled the building, lifting spirits and boosting morale. Her efforts raised over £16,000 and her music video has been viewed over 500,000 times.
Sometimes we can confuse resilience with positive thinking, but unless there is a facing up to reality, there’s a danger of false optimism which can lead to despair when things don’t work out. No, as Christians we can embrace life as it is, knowing God is in control, that he has purpose in it, and that we can make a difference. God has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Resilient people also seem to have the ability to improvise. One of my friends is 93 and lives alone. She told me, “Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I find things I can do.” Like the rest of us she’s living with restrictions, but she’s finding new ways to express her faith. She bakes and takes gingerbread to her neighbours, and prays regularly with several. Her local cafe reserves a table for her to meet with her many friends one at a time. After years of spiritual discipline, she keeps her devotional routine and stays close to the Lord. We can learn so much from the example of older godly friends.
My in-laws were resilient seniors. Later life brought unique challenges requiring great spiritual stamina. Mother’s advanced Alzheimer’s meant she required 24 hour care in a nursing home. Dad moved to a small flat opposite and visited daily. Parkinson’s caused Dad to shuffle and the medication produced hallucinations. Through it all they remained steadfast in their faith. When I read a psalm with Mother she would mouth every word, though most of the time her conversation was nonsensical. When I prayed she clearly knew God’s presence and said, “Amen” gripping my hand and adding a “Thank you.” Dad’s Christian faith was an open book and his godly faithfulness a huge testimony and encouragement to family and care staff.
I always feel uncomfortable when I hear comments about the elderly like, “He’s failing terribly” or “She’s really going downhill”. Certainly reality might be that outwardly there’s a wasting, but this is transient. As Christians we look beyond to another reality – the unseen weight of glory. Faith glimpses eternity. The Apostle Paul says the outer man may be wasting away but the inner man is being renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). Man might say they are “failing” but I think God’s view would be quite different. He would say they are “succeeding”.
These days of COVID-19 have shown us how much we need to stay connected across the generations to build resilience and encourage one another not to lose heart. Captain Tom’s unique fundraising challenge is complete, but to spread hope and ease loneliness he encourages us all, “Let’s keep walking and talking together”. We can all say, “Amen” to that.