What Is of Value in The End: My Elderly Mom & Family Photos

Treasure the elderly in your life

Treasure the elderly in your life. Decline can set in so suddenly. Last week, I wrote about my 92-year-old mother’s decision to move into a retirement home. “She’ll know when it’s time,” we children had said. No kidding.

This past Sunday, she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, thinking she’d had a stroke. There was no stroke, but her blood pressure was so high, the machine in the ambulance didn’t have the capacity to read it. It was taken manually: 250/100.

I’m off work this week (March Break), and the last few days have been filled with appointments to see the doctor, the pharmacist, the retirement home, and the real estate agent. Confusion and fear have set in for my mom.

So sharp for so long

You might be thinking, “Well, she is 92 . . .” And while that is true, so is the fact that only two years ago, she was sharp enough to prepare and give this mini-sermon at church. And so is the fact that only 5 months ago, she officiated her grand-daughter’s wedding flawlessly.

And only one month ago, at the funeral of her sister (who lived to be 95), she moved us all. Mom was to read the 23rd Psalm. She slowly walked up to the front of the church, her arthritic knees hardly able to bend, and she looked at the Bible opened for her at the lectern.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” she began.

Then she looked up at the faces of loved ones gathered, and instead of reading it, she spoke it, never looking down at the words again – speaking as one who knew it to be true. I hope she still does.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul . . .”

Paring down possessions for the retirement home

When Mom and Dad moved from the family home to their condo 12 years ago, they were able to bring much of what they owned. We were amazed at how they managed to make their condo feel like the home of our growing up years. Paintings and photos on the walls; book shelves; figurines; china dishware; silverware; souvenirs from my parents’ travels in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia . . . It was not a “minimalist condo” – not by  a long shot.

But Mom’s move to assisted living will be a different story. She’ll have one comfortable, small room, and my guess is that she’ll only be able to bring about 5% of her possessions with her. The rest will be divided among her children or given away. Yesterday, after the real estate agent had come over to assess the condo, I talked with Mom about what she thought she would choose to bring.

Mom’s choice: family photos

Answer? Family photos. (Those are her grandchildren and her great-grandchild  – from several years ago – featured above.) I walked through the condo and considered how realistic it would be for her to bring all of the family photos she has on display – on the walls and set up on tables, desks, and ledges. Not very realistic.

“How would you feel about our putting some of the framed photos in nice photo albums?” I  asked her.

No, that wouldn’t do.

“It might end up looking like photo-wallpaper, Mom,” I advised her.

That would be just fine.

The china, silverware, souvenirs, art work, books, figurines, chandelier, dining room set, living room set . . . She accepts that she’ll be letting go of almost all of it. Not an easy thing to think about – especially with regards to her beloved books. But a book shelf takes up wall space, and she’s made it clear that the walls are to be covered with family photos.

Anxiety about the transition to a seniors’ residence

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me . . .”

Mom is aware that her faculties are diminishing. “Ruthie, do you think I’m losing it?” she asked me two days ago. Such a heart-breaking question, but expressed with the philosophical outlook and curiosity she’s always had.

Mom is experiencing waves of anxiety through this unsettled time. I want so much for her to be moved and settled in her new home, so that she can feel stable and grounded again. But even as fear disturbs her, she remains grateful. “If I ever get muddled and can’t think of what to say, I can always say ‘Thank you’ – because somebody’s always helping me.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .” 

I’m glad that some friends of Mom’s who already live in the seniors’ residence will greet her and welcome her when she moves in. And I know that she will enjoy many and frequent visits once she’s settled in. As for her solitary times, she will likely enjoy them, as she always has. There is comfort in knowing that in her room, she’ll be surrounded by her most precious possessions.

It’s times like this that force a perspective on all of our work, our  striving towards goals – even good goals, and our preoccupations. In the end, it’s so clear what is of value.

“. . .  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

If you could keep only 5% of your possessions, what would you choose? Do you have objects you value that have been passed on to you? Your comments are welcome.


22 comments on “What Is of Value in The End: My Elderly Mom & Family Photos

  1. Ruth I hope and pray your mom handles this transition well. Surrounded by her loving family will certainly help. I have noticed more and more pictures being hung at my moms place these days. 🙂

    1. Interesting that your mom is doing the same. Those family photos breed! Thanks for your good wishes about my mom’s transition, Brian.

  2. Other than my family, all that’s important to me are photos and home movies. I keep them in a case with a handle so if I ever need to, I can easily grab ’em quickly and go. You are blessed to have this extra time with your Mom. I was looking forward to doing all the things my Mom liked and treating her like she’d treated me when I was a kid ~ doing all the stuff that made her happy. You have been given a gift you will cherish forever. Give Mom an extra hug for me, will ya? 🙂

    1. I will give her an extra hug : ) And I’m sorry you missed that time with your mom, Kay. I appreciate your words here, and I will cherish this time. Thank you.

  3. In addition the family photos, the Bible we received at our wedding, I would probably try to find some other heirlooms that couldn’t be purchased again or are special to us.

    Prayers for a smooth transition for your mom & the rest of you as well. I recently lost a great uncle so it’s weird how you think that stage of life will never affect you until it does.

    1. That’s true, Josh. I have seen so many friends deal with their parents transition into care, and though I knew logically that it would probably happen for us, it is still such an upheaval. We are fortunate that Mom is willing, and that we have a tribe of 5 siblings to see it through.

    1. You’re right – It is not easy. All things considered though, we are very fortunate that it’s playing out as it is. Thank you, Emily.

  4. I’m so happy that your mom has you and others to rely on as she goes through this transition in life. Like you, my mom means the world to me and I’d do anything to make her life easier. Kudos to you for really being there for her!

  5. Pets and family photos, though honestly I already have most of them backed up several ways. I still need to scan and back up quite a lot of the oldest photos from my own childhood.

    What a bittersweet time – I’m so sorry she’s starting to decline, but I hope that she is very comfortable in her new home. I always have a pang when others are helping their elderly parents. It was a responsibility I had expected much later in life and had hoped Mom would have many good years in between before we said good-bye.

    1. Your comment makes me aware that I am very fortunate to be in the position of having an elderly mom who has had many good years. It IS a bittersweet time, but my mom is comfortable in her new home. Thank you, Revanche.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *