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A newsletter from the
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View
Centers for Spirituality and Aging
Connecting:  "I am so blest."
I once met up with a resident in the main atrium of our community.  Carl was holding an old photograph in his hands.  As he showed it to me, he told me that the photo was of his mother and father and some of their friends in 1902, all dressed up in their Sunday best taking an afternoon boat ride in Chicago's Garfield Park.  As he showed me the photo his words were, "I am so blest."

I was struck by those words as I knew that he had suffered some pretty severe losses in his life.  Now in his early 90s he was widowed and he and his wife lost their only child, a daughter, when she contracted polio as a freshman in college.  And I also knew that he suffered from periodic bouts of deep depression.

But he stood there that day, telling me how much he was blessed by his family, by his heritage, and his life.  Reflecting on that chance meeting and his words I realize that Carl had found the spirituality of aging that Kathleen Fisher describes as helping us
". . . find a way to turn losses into gains, to learn how the stripping process which often accompanies aging can be a gradual entrance into freedom and new life, how, in fact, aging can be winter grace."

I don't think Carl arrived at that place and that stance by accident.  He was a life-long Swedish Lutheran and still considered the church on Irving Park Road in Chicago as his church.  He valued his past, but he also looked to the future, commenting after a pumpkin decorating contest one year, "I've never decorated a pumpkin before, but I'm already planning for next year."  The next year he and his friend Lou won with their bride and groom pumpkins.

He participated in a wide variety of activities from weekly worship, to crazy hat day, to building a big snowman on a cold winter day when we bro
ught some snow in for indoor snowman making.  He made kites that he flew on windy days and he made birdhouses that he hung in the trees on our grounds.  He made new friends and stayed connected to his friends in his old workplace and neighborhood.  The night before he was found unconscious and at the edge of death in his room, he had been dancing to the music in the atrium.

I don't know that Carl ever practiced gratitude intentionally, but he lived his life as an exercise in gratitude.  In his 90s he considered himself "blest" and he blessed the lives that he touched in our community. 

As we approach Thanksgiving, I'm thinking about how I can live my life so that when I'm in my early 90s, I can say, "I am so blest."  And I'm wondering how we can encourage the elders we serve to ways of gratitude, ways of engagement, ways of joy so that they too can experience the blessedness and gifts of this life.

2014 Spiritual Care Workshops

There is one more opportunity to attend this workshop in Pasadena on January 22. 
If you work in programming  with older adults in a retirement community, assisted living, long term care, senior center, adult day center or in a congregation this workshop is for you.  We hope that you will be inspired and encouraged in the important work that you do. Participants in the workshop in November had the following to say: 

"It was full of very helpful information to begin implementing at our Senior Center."

"I love it.  I feel supported, encouraged and inspired after today!"

"Having brought two people, I hope to begin a conversation about more intentionality of our ministry."

"Excellent!  Thank you for your thoughtful presentation." 

For more information and to register use the link below.

The Rev. Dr. Jade Angelica
Rabbi Dayle Friedman


 A Communication, Connection & Care Experiential Workshop

For more information and to register use these links.

 Through presentation, experiential exercises, discussion, and reflection, Jade Angelica, founder of Healing Moments,  provides caregivers (family, lay and professional) with the opportunity to learn and practice creative, effective methods for communicating and connecting with and caring for persons with Alzheimer's and dementia.  Using techniques from improvisational theater this workshop is designed to creatively breathe life into the communication process in order to enhance quality of life and reduce caregiver stress.

Rev. Dr. Angelica's program, Healing Moments was awarded a "Best Practices" award by NICA (National Interfaith Council on Aging) in 2010.  She is a Unitarian Universalist minister, provides long distance spiritual direction to those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers, and has a book, Where Two Worlds Touch,  in publication (coming in March 2014) about her journey caring for her mother who suffered from Alzheimer's.
 Becoming Resilient Caregivers
Healing and Transformation in Our Life Stories

Save the Dates:

April 9, 2014 in Anaheim

April 10, 2014 in Cupertino.

Rabbi Dayle Friedman brings a look at life review and its importance and necessity in the spiritual journey of aging.  Using the tool of Midrashic inquiry she will teach us techniques to to help us deepen our understanding of  our current life story and techniques and questions that we can use as we provide spiritual care for older adults.  The second half of the day will be spent exploring how caregivers can nurture their own resiliency as they care for and support elders. 

Rabbi Friedman served as founding director of Hiddur: The Center for Aging and Judaism of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, has many years of experience as chaplain and trainer of chaplains for older adults, and is author of many articles and two books.  You can learn more about her and her programs at her website, Growing Older.
Resources for Congregations
My friend Rev. Diana Trautwein wrote about lunch with her mom in our Spirit for Congregations newsletter in the summer of 2012.  Diana has continued to post thoughtful reflections on her walk with her mom through dementia.  I invite you to her blog site "Just Wondering" to read her posts about this on-going journey.
Sojourner's, a community that advocates for Christian social justice recently posted "Have Churches Abandoned the Elderly?" on their "God's Politics" blog.  The writer raises some good points, but got the demographics of aging wrong when he stated, "[C]hurches don't try to attract new elderly members, especially since that age demographic is generally decreasing (through natural death) on an annual basis." I think someone forgot to tell him that the 85+ group is the fastest growing in the country! In spite of that, most churches aren't trying to attract new elderly members.  All the more reason to ponder the question in the title of the blog.
The "GrayIsGreen" website is designed for older adults who want to contribute to the environmental wellbeing of our earth.  Filled with encouragement, elder wisdom, and resources for taking action.  Visit the site here.
Center Resources
good shepherd Advent/Christmas kits for Sensing the Sacred are now available with the people and animal figures for telling this story. It was available last year but without the figures.  The kit is available for $50, plus postage.   When you purchase a kit you will receive the link to a series of  training workshop videos that will help you train yourself and others in this significant ministry.  Other stories to use in the new year are the "Good Shepherd" and "Jesus and Zacchaeus."  Visit the Sensing the Sacred web page to learn more.  Email me to order a kit.
Parting Thoughts
In the past two months we went from 73 to 90 likes on our Facebook page.  Wouldn't you like to help us hit that magic 100? The link for our Facebook Page is below in  "Staying Connected."

And "practicing gratitude" is one of the ten recommended spiritual practices for aging that was an integral part of our "What Does Prayer Have to Do with Bingo?" workshops we offered this fall and one more time in January.  It was so gratifying to interact with those in the retirement community world and in congregations about the centrality of spirituality to programs.  If you would like a taste of part of the day, you can find the "Ten Practices" here.

As I count my blessings in this season, I am grateful for all of you who are passionate about serving older adults and nurturing and encouraging their spiritual journeys.

Many, many blessings!

Nancy Gordon, Director
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging


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Nancy Gordon, Director
CLH and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging
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