Sue is a friend of mine in her mid seventies. She had been in and out of mental hospitals for many years, yet she remained a loving person who desperately wanted to follow Jesus. I made plans to visit her, and she wanted to go to McDonalds for lunch. As I greeted Sue, she seemed sad and despondent. She tried to smile, but I could tell that something weighed heavy on her mind.
We stood in line at McDonalds with a group of children. Sue ordered a Coke and a hamburger. It takes time for Sue to retrieve and count her money and put the change back in her wallet. The cashier attempted friendliness, though she remained noticeably irritated that Sue held up the long line. The children in the back of the line became fidgety, because of the wait. Sue trembled, feeling pressured to hurry, and this slowed her even more.
“Take as much time as you need, Sue,” I said. She seemed to relax a little and finally stuffed the change into her purse.
When we sat down at the table together, Sue settled and calmed down. We always enjoyed spending time together. When I asked how she was doing, she looked sad and explained that her sons didn’t want to see her, because she believed herself to be “Jehovah God.” She appeared so discouraged and hurt. She went on to talk about how she loved God and how she really wasn’t Sue, but she was a person in the Bible.
Even though I thought Sue experienced a delusional state, I could see how much she loved God, and she was following Him in her own unique way. I also saw how it deeply hurt her when her beloved sons didn’t care to see her. I didn’t have a magic wand to make her situation better, so I told her how I sorry I felt and that I understood it must be difficult for her. I tried to help her realize that, even though their lives were busy, and they had a hard time dealing with some of her beliefs, her sons still loved her. I reminded her there were times when they asked her over for the weekend, and they always included her in family parties.
It helped her to remember that maybe they were busy men, and we talked about her visits with them in the past. Sue can’t understand why people don’t see her as a person in the Bible. She is annoyed when people call her “Sue.” I simply tell her I understand, but that, to me, she will always be Sue. I explain why I like her, and I recount her many talents. I usually turn the conversation to daily activities and her job.
After this discussion, Sue felt better and told me multiple times that I was her only friend. She also told me how much she loved me. Numerous times she thanked me. I let her know again how much I liked being with her, and reminded her to “hang in there.”
In our fast-moving culture, it’s easy to forget that older adults live at a slower pace. It may take them longer to walk or retrieve money from their purses. It can be hard for us to slow down and realize that waiting two or three minutes won’t ruin our day. When we are in a hurry, it always seems there is an older adult driving slowly in front of us, and we find it irritating. Stop to think; what have we accomplished by living at such a fast pace? It certainly doesn’t help our blood pressure, and it adds unnecessary stress. Perhaps we can learn something from Sue and from other older adults who move at a slower pace. Why are we in such a hurry? Do we over-extend ourselves? Let’s try to be more understanding of people who move at a much healthier pace.