I recently received a note in the mail that was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. It was a heartfelt note of thanks from someone for always remembering their elderly relatives (a married couple) each Christmas with a card and handwritten letter. After one passed away, I carried on with sending a card to the surviving one. The person expressed special thanks that I kept on even after the spouse died. Because…
I was the only person who did.
The only one.
As said, I was very encouraged by this note of thanks. However, I also felt sad. I was the only one? A large number of people besides me had the same connection to this elderly couple, and I was the only one who dropped a note? How sad to be forgotten about, especially after a spouse dies, and when old.
I once wrote a post entitled: Learning something besides doctrine from the Apostle Paul…Here is an excerpt:
“Paul, on his missionary journeys, met many individuals and started new churches – but he didn’t just forget about them. He continued to be concerned for them, made efforts to keep in touch, and prayed for them. We know this because he wrote them letters that became a part of the canon of Scripture. Do we care for people this way? Do we remember people? Or do we just forget about them? It certainly would have been easier for Paul to have made a clean break after he started a church, and focus entirely on the new work. Yet, Paul took the time to communicate and show that he cared for the people from the previous places. While we are likely not church planters nor moving around like Paul, are we taking time for the people in our lives in this way?”
Now, I don’t want to sound holier-than-thou because I know there are some elderly folks (and others) that I did not keep in touch with properly…for various reasons. I feel some guilt about this, but I can’t change the past. But if people are still alive, it is not too late to get back in touch, and I have reestablished contact with some I’d lost touch with.
Keeping in touch is something I have generally been good at throughout my life. It seems natural to me. Maybe I am just nostalgic? And my personality type involved? As an introvert, I don’t really “connect” with many people, and if I do form a true connection (friendship), I want to keep in touch even if our lives diverge in different ways whether by physical distance or other changes. I like personality tests (and similar character trait quizzes) and these tests state that I am loyal and dutiful. I can be loyal to a fault, and will hang on to the very end with a relationship, giving the benefit of the doubt, hoping for some reciprocity to redevelop if it had stopped.
There are times we will give of ourselves one-way. This is ministry. Remembering the elderly is one example of those who may not be able to reciprocate but need our remembrance and care. We should not be giving only to get back! However, there are relationships that should at least have some give-and-take. A friendship can’t be completely one-sided and maintain itself.
I read an article about 5 things people regret on their deathbed. One was: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged people to keep their friendships “in repair.” My advice to you is the same. If you really care about someone, make time for them. Yes, we all have busy seasons of life where we may not have as much time for others. This is understandable. Yet, we should be able to make at least a little time for those who supposedly matter to us.
We may also have the tendency to take a long time friendship for granted. Please don’t. We expect them to always be there, and may forget the importance of courtesy, thanks, and communication.
I’ve occasionally seen a meme that says something about appreciating those friends with whom you don’t communicate with for long lengths of time, yet you can pick it back up like it was old times. That meme (I don’t have it exactly right) has always annoyed me. If you really care about someone, how can you go extended periods of time without wondering about them – being concerned about them – enough to get in touch?
A couple years ago I stopped hearing from a friend that was always communicative. I noted this inconsistency. I tried to contact her, but she never answered her phone, and social media was quiet. More time passed. Her phone number was no longer operational. I grew concerned. I remembered she once called me from a relative’s home, and I spent an afternoon going through my phone records and finally found the relative’s number. I called. My friend happened to be there. The conversation we had was…bizarre…I knew something was terribly wrong but my friend would not reveal it. After this, I searched the internet (such as obituaries) and discovered there had been a very untimely and tragic death in my friend’s life. This explained it. My friend eventually suffered a mental break-down, as her life took a downward spiral.
My point with that? My experience is that some would NOT even notice if a friend stopped communicating or otherwise disappeared from the scene. Or if they did notice, they would NOT reach out. Neither would they put forth effort to make sure everything was okay, especially if normal contact methods did not work. Again, I hope I am not sounding “holier-than-thou” here. I am certainly not the only loyal friend.
But I could share various cases of people being forgotten. People may sometimes withdraw on purpose, but regardless, a simple acknowledgement that the absence is noted can be encouraging to the person. It can be the final kick in the pants to disappear from a group or situation, and see that no one even noticed or cared.
By the way, I am also a “personal space” person – literally and mentally. I need time alone and can easily feel smothered by others. I am not advocating constant communication or hounding others, but at least caring enough to initiate communication on occasion or to let someone know they are missed.
I’ve perhaps been a bit rambling in this post, switching between remembering the elderly and maintaining friendships. But I encourage you to…
Pick up the phone and let someone know you were thinking of them. Send a note to let them know how much you appreciate their friendship or to share an old memory. Give them a little out-of-the-blue gift. Small gestures can mean so much.
If you have lost touch with someone, try to find them. In our digital age, it is much easier to locate that long lost person. Surprise someone!
I’m a fan of old fashioned postal mail, and the personal touch of a handwritten note can mean much. That elderly relative will particularly appreciate it.
As we enter the Christmas season, remember that…
In Jesus Christ, the God of the universe stepped into this world in a personal way. Jesus was never too busy for individuals and took time for them. May it be so with us.