Folk Artist: Caring for elders
After I entered our religious community, there were many more young Sisters than we have now. Today I am still considered a “young Sister” although I celebrated my 50-year Jubilee. You do the math and smile with me! But we have older Sisters in their 80s and 90s who are active, joyful and do not show the age they are! These Sisters credit great nutrition and medical help they have had all these years.
When our Salvatorian Sisters first came to Milwaukee to begin work among the people, they went into homes and took care of elderly people so the men and women were able to stay in their own homes as they aged. About a month ago I was asked by a woman if any Sister would be able to visit her husband George who was 93 years old. I told her we were not able, for the most part, to have Sisters visit on a regular basis. But I would be happy to visit George, and drive to their home. All I asked was to enjoy a cup of coffee while George and I visited. She would be able to leave and do the errands she needed during those two hours. We arranged my visit for Wednesday afternoons and happily, George and I hit it off! For six weeks I enjoyed visiting George while Mary did her shopping and other errands.
I realized during these visits that George wanted to tell me his past memories about living on the farm, delivering milk to the village from the Jersey cows they milked, being an excellent student and continuing on through high school and the university. On the campus of the university the young men could apply for military service when World War II began, which he did. George’s memories were vivid and always interesting so I suggested I write them down for his family. He was always “upbeat” in his stories and felt he had made use of every opportunity that came to him during his long life. One virtue he often remarked on is the need to be “an honorable man.” In all I heard and wrote during our visits, I saw he was a “man of great honor.”
I often thought of the work of our early Sisters who cared for older folks and probably heard memories of their lives. It told me why our Sisters were welcomed and have continued to be treasured for their simplicity and companionship.
By Sr. Karlyn Cauley, SDS