on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Caring for the Elderly

This post is the sixth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.

During my junior year at Clemson University, I finally made the decision that after I graduated from college I would go to a seminary and become a minister.

I had the unique opportunity to work in my father’s large congregation as the youth director in the summer of 1976, and as an associate pastor in the summer of 1977 in Gardendale, AL.

I experienced my father as a professional mentor for the first time in my life as I served on his large staff.  It was a unique time where I could appreciate his expertise and multiple gifts with new eyes.

One day he asked me if I would like to go visiting with him to see some of our elderly, homebound members.

As we visited several persons in their homes, I watched and listened to the way he related with gentle humor, natural Southern charm, and inquisitive questions about their fears that was sprinkled with encouragement.  He would respectfully ask at the conclusion of each visit if it would be ok to have a brief prayer together before we left.  No one ever turned him down.

One of the many persons we visited was a silver-haired widow who had a quick wit and an angel’s heart.  We had a fun visit with her and lots of laughter.  As we prepared to leave this time, without warning he turned to me and said, “Malcolm, why don’t you lead us in prayer this time?”

I looked at him as she reached out and grabbed my hand and bowed her head, and somehow words flowed out of my mouth naturally, because I had heard him do it.  She thanked me so much for my simple prayer it was embarrassing.

As we drove away, my dad asked, “I hope it was ok that I asked you to pray without asking you ahead of time,” as I noticed a slight smile in the curl of his lips.

“Yep, no problem,” I said.  “I enjoyed it.”

That same widow became my pen pal when I went to seminary.  She wrote beautiful hand-written notes to encourage me and to let me know she was the one praying for me now.

My father taught me to love persons who were older by showing me how to do it, not by telling me.  He always said, “They have a lot to teach us if we will listen.”

Following seminary, I developed a program for the homebound called “Operation HUGG” at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, KY that is still active twenty-seven years later.

Love and respect our elders. It is good for them and for us.

My father taught me so.


  1. Who has taught you to appreciate or love senior adults or the elderly?
  2. How did they do so?
  3. How has an elderly person made a difference in your life?

Please tell me about in the comments section below.

And if you liked this post, please click on the Share button below to share it with others.


  1. Rob Henderson

    Captain…I hope you will be putting your writings into a book……they are excellent !!

  2. Judy Cloe

    I agree with Rob. I wish I had known your father. I am loving these lessons you learned.

  3. Mary Tittle

    I agree with Rob…you should put your writings into book form. You have a natural talent for writing.

  4. Malcolm

    Dear Rob, Judy, and Mary, your encouragement to put my writings about my father into book form is something I greatly appreciate and will consider.

    I’ll give it some more time and see how things work out.

    Thanks again!

  5. Chandler

    Your father was such a kind and gentle soul…wish I had known him better…Thanks for sharing. Chandler 🙂

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