Dignity, compassion, and a good death.
Please meet Isabel Gonzalez, the psychiatrist who works with the Congregation of Martha and Mary, in Esquipulas. As I translated her responses to my questions, I found myself moved to near-tears. These are truly amazing and heroic women.
Here is what Isabel sees when she looks at these abandoned elders.
The congregation Martha and Mary have in one of their religious principles the apostolic action in the generous and unselfish service to one’s neighbor, motivated by the love of God. Since in the elderly there is also the face of God, this is one reason why they decide to support the elderly who have been forgotten in streets, hospitals, homes, and elsewhere: To provide them with a dignified death. In my particular case, I think that an old man at some point was a baby, a child, a young adult and at the time he had to have been useful in his life. He deserves then to have a dignified place where he can receive food, a roof and a clean place to live, as well as to receive affection and compassion.
It is difficult to work with the elderly because they are becoming like babies, but if we see in them the face of God and that in some time they were someone, even if it takes time and effort, their care is done with love and compassion because we know that we can help them recover dignity.
I know Sister Julia, who has been in the Hogar de Ancianos Betania for about three years. In the congregation they are assigned missions; that is, they can be in the different places where the congregation is present. Sister Julia was previously in the Hogar Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, caring for girls and adolescents. She always showed her love and patience in the care of the girls. I consider that these were qualities that they saw in her to move her to the Betania home because her vocation of service was suitable for this work. I have seen how she takes care of the elderly, and from what I can say, that although she did not think before that this was what she wanted to do, at the moment, being in this place, she does it in the best way – always showing them the love of God, which is always the way to care for the elderly.
My parents inspired me to begin this work. They died in the bosom of their home accompanied by their family, having the loving care of their children. So, I have always thought that our elders also deserve to have a death where someone accompanies them and makes that path easier. One day I will be in that place of an old woman, and jokingly I have told some mothers that if one day I am alone and nobody wants to take care of me, I would want to be in a place like this. And although we joke, if it were to be that way for me, that would be my wish. I also draw inspiration from the sisters of the congregation who care for our ancianitos [little elders] 24/7/365. To see the effort, dedication and love they put into their mission, so the little help I can offer, I do because I am inspired by them.
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Thank you, as always, for taking all these stories into your heart. I hope everyone is staying safe and well this holiday season!