Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 18, 2014

Opinion: Elderly deserve respect

Lisa Rexroat
For the Daily News

DIETERICH — Wow, I can feel my heart beating on the outside of my chest. I am approaching an elderly gentleman holding steady with aid of a walker.

He has lines upon his face that each tell a story. The veteran’s cap on his head shows his honorable service to his country that he was willing to offer up his life. An elderly woman also is sitting in the same room. Vibrant signs line the room that children have made to honor this elderly warrior.

A young man offers his hand with a firm handshake and says thank you and then turns and walks away from the elderly gentleman. I am next in line. As I approach, visions of the Veterans Memorials shoot through my brain.

Not sure if you have had a chance to tour these sacred grounds, but I was filled with a warm feeling in my heart in their presence. The water sprays that are encased by the walls of the World War II monument; the Vietnam Memorial that goes on and on with a list of honorable men and women who gave their life for us. The Korean Memorial at dusk and during the night is realistically haunting as the men are coming through the brush in their weighted-down gear to stalk their enemies. When the snow has fallen and sets on their caps and cloaks, it even adds more realism to this adventure.

The ladies memorial sets the stage for the many devoted nurses who cared for the many wounded soldiers. Showing care and compassion in a realistic state in true form.

My heart keeps throbbing as it is my turn to shake this frail man’s hand, which shows oh so much character. He still would fight for you and me (his country) if only his limbs were able to carry him into battle. Time is of the essence, and I am getting so much closer to approaching this man of honor. What can I say to him that could possibly show him how much I respect him and to thank him for allowing me to live freely in the USA.

Wow, he looks so confident, but I can only imagine that he struggles daily with images you and I could never imagine. Oh my, our hands meet and our eyes are locked. The emotions are building. The strength of his handshake surges energy through my arm. All I can get out is a mere Thank You. There is a lump in my throat and tears begin to flow down, no rush down my cheek.

Nothing else will come from my tight lips. The emotions are just gushing out. As our eyes meet, his seem to say: “ I understand, and thank you for coming!”

Whoa. I walked away and felt so honored to be amongst a 90-year-old veteran who had fought for his country and lived through the war.

As we gathered for his birthday, the lady who sat at the table near him but in the background was unable to communicate. She has the onset of dementia. This was the woman who stood behind him and waited for him to come home and when he arrived, she brought him through the tough times.

She was a part of him. Respect for her was deserved the same as for him, if not more. Her mind may have not let her communicate, but you could tell what he felt, she felt, they were one.

Anyone of age who has lived through good times, bad times, hard times, troubled times, made mistakes, offered their lives for others, it does not matter, they deserve the utmost respect from us all. No one should ever be disrespectful to the elderly in any such form.

So, I am challenging you today. Don’t have regrets, but have respect.

Reach out to the elderly in your community. Thank them for their service in the military. Thank them for anything and everything that they have done over the years, whether they are a mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, aunt, uncle, relative, veteran, or just a simple person. Don’t wait for tomorrow what you can do today. Your heart will reap the rewards.