Last night, we drove to the nursing home to pick up a new crib.
“We’re not able-bodied,” the crackly, slow voice told me over the phone earlier in the day. “But you can come get it.”
“Would around five o’clock be okay?”
“Well, that’s our supper hour. Let’s say seven.”
So seven o’clock, we show up. White-haired folks out for an evening stroll on the sidewalks point us in the direction of the building we are looking for. In the front doors we wander, signing in as visitors with little badges. “You’ll want to go just past the dining hall, to the right,” we are directed. Passing the ladies eating neat little bowls of pudding around a table bedecked in autumn colors, my husband wonders aloud, “Do you think we could get dinner here?” We hadn’t eaten for hours. Suddenly, surrounded by the aged who eat dinner at the same time every day, I feel very young.
We knock on the door, and a little old man with a delightfully gray beard answers. He shows us the cherry-wood crib, and we chat for a bit. His grandchildren live in England. He is moving into a smaller apartment and needs to downsize. So here we are.
The crib is loaded on to a rolling cart and the Grandpa points us down the hall, slowing standing and reaching for his walker. He is going to walk out with us.
We walk slowly. Small steps, one foot carefully placed before the next. I take the opportunity to see this Grandpa’s eyes, to slow down my own self, to ponder life. This is a man at the end of things. A man who had lived full and is now near the finish line. My heart melts as I consider my own grandfather, whose memorial service I attended just days earlier. That morning I’d listened to Pavarotti as I drove to work—not my usual choice of listening, but my Grandpa adored that Italian musician. Tears had filled my eyes. Death is hard.
I have a hard time imagining myself old, I realize as I pace down this nursing home hallway. I don’t think I really believe that I will grow old–that I might live in a place like this, that I might have grandchildren who live far away and a home to downsize and a walker to lean heavy on.
Inside me my baby boy somersaults. I smile as I instinctively touch my growing belly. “Is it your first?” a passerby, in a wheelchair, asks.
It is my first. We’re just starting life. We’re setting up our home, anticipating and dreaming for our future, hopeful, anxious, wondering. So here we are, getting a crib at a nursing home, wide-eyed with awe as new and old intersect.
“What is your life?” James writes. “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Once upon a time this old man hobbling next to me was a little baby kicking in his mother’s womb. Then he had a little boy of his own. Then he had grandkids. Then, he came to the end. And we took his crib.
We live as a vapor.
“Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away…” the hymnist penned.
James reminds us not to boast—not to assume our own sovereignty over our days (4:15). We’re to live humble, leaning on the Lord’s will like this old man leans on his walker. And here—here—to establish our hearts, for “the coming of the Lord is at hand” (5:8). We can hope for the future, the real future, the eternal life.
“Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.”
He will bring us all, little baby and young, clueless parents and old wise Grandpas, home to a Glory where time will never end, where we will share the ultimate victory, where death will never dismay, where joy will be unhindered. All together, united with our Father.