August 21 is National Senior Citizen Day, the day designated to let seniors know how much we care and to recognize their accomplishments. Started in 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this holiday to raise awareness about issues that affect senior citizens and their quality of life.
EMH prides itself in the quality of our relationships with seniors, and for a deep understanding of the merits of the greatest generation. We asked our team to share some inspiring stories about EMH team’s relationships with seniors – here are their beautiful testimonies to a simple question:
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned from a senior?
I didn’t think I had a story to offer until I was reminded by one of my former patients, Mary, who texted me yesterday. She’s a patient from one of the skilled nursing facilities that I worked at as a social services director. Mary didn’t have much when it came to family, so she and I bonded because I came from a big family. I took up the responsibility of ensuring that she would at least always have someone to talk to. I even gave her my personal number after I left the facility. I hadn’t heard from Mary in the last 4 months, then I got a call yesterday from her: She gave me an update on the facility and informed me that she had in fact been diagnosed with COVID-19 but is now healthy and doing well. She wrote in the text “Hi, I just called sending you a text and say hello and we’re doing good here so maybe when we open up, you’ll be back.” It wasn’t only this text that brought me to tears but the fact that I scrolled back through our previous text messages and was reminded that she had always checked in on me on every holiday and had even sent a birthday card for my birthday. The tears began to flood when I realized that in the mist of her falling sick with COVID she came out on the other side and was checking on me! It validated all of my 10.5 years of service as a social worker. I was left thinking about how we never know how we will affect or influence the lives we encounter. All the while I thought that I was being there for her, I realized that she was always there for me.
Tamika Daniels, Regional Community Liaison
My Grandfather was in the Army, Marines, and the Navy. He was a quiet, observant man with little to say. He passed away when I was only 10 years old, but I do hold fond memories of him calling me “Kid” and never being without a newspaper. When he did speak, he had such command of the room. Everyone stayed quiet and listened because they knew whatever he was about to share would be informative and could only add value. It was only after he passed that the family learned more of his bravery. He was a Sargent in the Army, skippered several large vessels, and was a fireman after his services in the military. He surely is missed. Thank you, Grandfather Robert, for your services to our country and your lasting impression on our family.
Freddy Lopez, Chief Operating Officer
When I used to be a Social Worker at a skilled nursing facility, we had a resident with dementia who was in a private room. This resident was very special to the staff, she didn’t really allow anyone in her room. It took a while for me to be able to walk into her room. Her dementia meant she was only able to recall parts of her life while she was young, but she told me her dad owned a clothing store for women, and she enjoyed being the model of the hats. She had a particular one that she made with her mom, it had flowers of all colors and a big bow. I was very surprised when she asked me to open her closet and that hat was sitting on the top shelf. She held that hat near her heart. Sometimes, I would take a break from conducting my MDS assessments and I’d visit her. She would share so many personal stories – to this day I still think to myself, it took a hat to put that smile on that person. Every conversation I had with her gave meaning to her or to myself. One of the last things that she told me was “Now Jesse, don’t take life that serious. Have a few spoons of sugar.”
Jesse A. Pellegrin, Billing & Provider Contracting Manager
One important senior in my life is my father-in-law. He is filled with countless life lessons and admirable qualities, which he derives from his nature as well as the many things he has gone through in his lifetime. There are two life lessons he has taught me that have changed the way I looked at life. The first is that happiness can lie in the simplicities of life. It lies in the gratitude you feel for the many things we can take for granted on the day-to-day basis and expressing that gratitude, like showing great appreciation to his wife for getting dinner for them any day of the week. He has also taught me what being “successful” in life really means. It means experiencing and finding value, gratitude, and happiness through the relationships in your life, something no amount of money, fancy cars, big houses, and a thriving career could ever provide.
Dr. Stacey M. Bayan, Psy.D, Staff Neuropsychologist
I cannot think of one specific individual to point to, but in general terms the majority of individuals I have and continue to interact with through my workdays (some aged, many of them younger and in the direst of circumstances) never cease to confirm for me the amazing resilience we as human beings possess, even under quite undesirable circumstances (loss of independence, housing instability, isolation from family). I repeatedly hear “today is a good day, I am alive”. It brings to mind one of my very favorite human beings, Viktor Frankl who reminds us life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones; our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life; and we have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.
Dr. Karin Celosse, Psy.D., Staff Clinical Psychologist
I have always had so much respect for my elders, which probably stems from the fond memories and deep relationships I’ve had with my grandparents. In particular, I have learned so much about life and how to be a decent human being from my grandfather. He was a very humble and gentle soul who was as intelligent as he was kind. Never one to brag, he accomplished much in his lifetime: being the first in his family to receive an education, escaping from a war-torn country, and becoming a well-rounded individual who was versed in literature, music, and art. I can still visualize the beautiful murals he would draw of an intricate phoenix and dragon with a simple gold pen. He set an example of how to live a life of character and integrity. I always admired his selflessness in serving his family and friends, as well as his refusal to succumb to greed and jealousy of what others have. He taught me to be respectful and kind to others regardless of their background. He has now passed over the rainbow bridge, but the important life lessons he taught me will always remain in my heart. I still dream of him from time to time, and I like to think that he is smiling down on me, proud of the person I have become.
Dr. Jennefer S. Ho, Ph.D, Clinical Manager
My grandfather, Rudy Kiehne, was a newly arrived recruit aboard the USS Maryland in Pearl Harbor, having enlisted in the Navy in 1938 in the days of the Great Depression. He was a gunner’s mate striker and “swabbed a lot of decks.” On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, he was below deck when he heard the bombing begin. He watched the USS Oklahoma, parked aside the Maryland, as it turned over, and heard people trapped inside as they banged on the hull. He said he always expected to die in the war, but as each day passed, he continued to live and eventually was discharged and became a geologist. The quietest, most soft-spoken humble being I have ever met, he came out of the war not feeling fearful or bitter about life, but with a beautiful acceptance and generosity of spirit.
Melendy Britt, Marketing & Communication