Age 26 seems to be an unlikely time in life to be adopted. And age 50 is an even more improbable life stage to experience adoption. But it happens. I have observed such an adoptive experience twice this year.
The first one occurred in July. A dear friend boldly fought cancer for several years, but the final 9 or 10 months of his life were especially difficult. His administrative assistant stepped in and did his job for all practical purposes for a number of months in a highly challenging academic setting. She also acted as stand in consultant for dozens of leaders that leaned on him for counsel. But most importantly she served with a heart of compassion and love.
When the man she was privileged to serve passed from this life, his family adopted her. She was asked to eat at the family meal prior to his funeral and sit with them during the service. She has been given permanent honorary status in that family.
The second such adoption occurred this week. A friend of mine who postponed her successful nursing career for two decades to raise her three boys recently re-entered the health care arena as a volunteer for a hospice in her community. After completing the training that hospice provides, she patiently waited to be assigned a patient. It did not take long. She soon found herself caring for an elderly gentleman dying of cancer in a nursing home. He had family in that community, but they chose not to spend time with him during his final weeks on this earth.
Hospice calls it “volunteering.” Kelly took her care for that man somewhere beyond just “volunteering.” I am not sure that there is an adequate word to describe what she provided for a man that would have likely died all alone. For several consecutive days she held that man’s hand and watched re-runs of Bonanza and The Andy Griffith show. She showered him with love and gifts on his birthday last week. He quietly passed away in his sleep earlier this week.
His out of state family asked her to join them at the meal before his funeral, and to sit with them during the service…. It occurred to me that I heard that before. And not too many months ago…And then it occurred to me that compassion precedes adoption. Or maybe that is incorrect. Perhaps the adoption takes place on the day that the person serving chooses to commit their lives to taking care of someone in desperate need. And then at a later date the adoptive ceremony occurs…Perhaps it is not at all unusual for a 26 year old and a 50 year old to experience adoption. It is an event they chose to instigate in a spirit of unconditional love.
I know I have said it before. I get so tired of hearing people talk about “community.” But I find people that know how to love others in a spirit of true compassion to be a source of inspiration. I am thankful for their late life adoptive experience, but more importantly I am grateful to call them my friends. They prompt me to be a better person.