It’s not often I write about a movie but in this case I feel the message is important and relevant. The movie is called, The Lady in the Van. Without giving too much away the story is about a homeless person living in a van and a man who associates with her. It came out in 2015.
Before I go on let me address the one thing that would likely distract some of you from getting the message. According to Church teaching the man engages in sinful living. OK, let’s leave it at that and look beyond to the more important thing. Of all the characters including the righteous, a biological brother, and the do-gooders that don’t really get their hands dirty (they mean well), the man is the only one who gets up close and personal and treats the homeless woman with unrelenting respect and protective love. Of note, his charity is anything but Mother Teresa-like.
How we treat our elderly is important. 2 million of the 34 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some form of depression. Dealing with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, cancer and arthritis can contribute, as can being a widow/widower. Half in that latter category become clinically depressed and stay depressed one year or more following a spouse’s death. Undoubtedly, feeling alone and abandoned doesn’t help. A disturbing fact is that people age 65 and older are 13% of the U.S. population but account for 20% of all suicide deaths. That should give pause.
In the movie, the lady living in the van is not depressed in spite of the fact her life has truly been a preventable tragedy. There are reasons for this but you’ll have to watch the movie to see them. Meanwhile, ponder the words of the man who remains unnamed until the movie’s final minutes. “Starting out as someone incidental in my life, …she became not incidental to it at all. As home bound sons and daughters looking after their parents think of it as just marking time before their lives start so like them I learned that there is no such thing as marking time, and that time marks you.”
Blessed Theresa of Calcutta once told some people who came to help her to go home and love their families. This begs the question: How do you want to be marked by time?
Picture: Old Lady at San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2007. Creative commons attribution 3.0 -posting this picture in no way suggests the photographer endorses this post or blog.
All statistics are from Mental Health America.