I just read a post on the Missouri Veteran's Home that made me tear up a little bit. The post starts like this:

During this Christmas season, while we honor those who live in our Home, we also mourn those we have lost over the past year. Please take the time to keep these Veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers as they spend their first Christmas without them.

It then goes on to explain that their residents can pass anytime day or night and at that moment the world seems to stop. They ring the sound of an old ship bell throughout the home, "and for a few seconds all is silent. You can feel the tears swell in your eyes, hear the skip of your heartbeat and feel a rush of loss come over you."

It goes on to explain the bond those who work and help care for the veterans at the home become like family, how it's hard not to see their friend in their usual spot at the dining hall, in line at the canteen, or on an outing that person always enjoyed. The note closes with these words:

As we gaze upon the empty chairs, the memories we have experienced with them will keep their presence alive forever. Thank you for leaving your imprint on our hearts. You will never be forgotten.

Followed by a poem entitled "The Empty Chair".

The post on its own is very moving. It resonated with me particularly because my Uncle Matt was a Jesuit priest. The Jesuit's, a Catholic religious order, have a few retirement homes scattered throughout that country that I suspect are somewhat similar to the Missouri Veteran's Home in Warrensburg.

My uncle lived in a Jesuit retirement community with many of the same gentlemen he crossed paths with through his journey as a Catholic Jesuit Priest. These men went to school together. Took vows together and lived many similar experiences. My uncle was a resident there for probably at least ten years before he passed last Thanksgiving.

Living in a communal environment like the Missouri Veteran's Home or a Jesuit retirement community like my uncle did, especially when many residents are older, can be difficult on everyone. Death is part of life, and to be there when friends new or old pass away is tough on everyone. Residents, and those who are responsible for their care.

I saw first hand how bonds between caregivers and residents were formed because of my Uncle Matt's experience. And when he passed I heard quite a few wonderful stories about him. How he brightened someone's day. Or had an impact on someone's life. How he had in some way been a positive influence.

So when you say grace before dinner or say your prayers before bed, remember those Missouri Veteran's Home residents and caregivers who have lost friends over the past year. It could make this Christmas a little tougher for them. Ask God to make their grief and sadness a little more bearable. Ask Him to make sure they remember the good things those people brought to their life. And ask Him to help those still here make new friends and new memories.

And to those caregivers at the Missouri Veteran's Home who go the extra mile to help their residents. Thank you. It's not always easy to come early, stay late, and help care for those who may at times be dealing with different physical challenges and emotions at any given time. Know you make a difference in your residents' lives and in the lives of the family and friends who care for them. I'll keep you in my prayers too.

The Missouri Veteran's Home doesn't let us embed Facebook posts, but you can read this powerful post on their Facebook page here


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