My eighty-year-old neighbor smelled. To make it worse, she had fleas. Once I invited her over for tea, and a flea jumped off her and onto my table. Her mental and spiritual state was pretty bad. Today it's called dementia or Alzheimer's. The fact was that she was in a bad way.
It hurt me, as her nearest neighbor, to see how she lived. Forty cats roamed her house and yard, unchecked and diseased. She didn't have the heart to get rid of them, and the options available for neighbor intervention were not great in the 1970's. I called the Public Health Service, the fire department, and anyone I thought might have some ideas, but the only way to help was to have her seen by a doctor, which she fiercely resisted.
Her hateful comments, her forgetfulness, her pungent odor, and her abusive actions all made it hard to know how to respond in a Christlike way. I was determined to try.
She took our mail and our grill. She even snitched some of our son's toys. I discussed the problem with another neighbor, and we did what we could for this elderly woman, but it wasn't much.
One day, she didn't come over as she had promised, and I became concerned. Once, when her mind was clearer, she had given me a key to her place. My mom was visiting at the time, and together we went to my neighbor's house. The stench was unbelievable. We found a dead cat on the porch and another in her bedroom. Some of my mail was on the kitchen counter. The shower was filled with soiled newspapers. I was practically gagging. As a nurse, I had experienced my share of unpleasant sights and smells, but this was something beyond my experience.
We couldn't find her, and she didn't answer when we repeatedly called her name. Leaving the house as quickly as possible, we searched the yard, looked behind the bushes, and even checked at the lakefront just in case she had wandered there.
Hours later, she eventually turned up and didn't remember making plans to do anything with me.
I felt frustrated that I couldn't do more to help her, so I continued to invite her in often for a cup of tea. Her conversation often didn't make any sense, and her memory seemed to dwell only on the pleasant parts of her past. I listened and prayed for the strength to continue reaching out to her.
One day she visited and talked rationally. Her eyes were clear. What she said made sense. I felt an urge to speak to her about her relationship with Jesus Christ and asked if she knew Him as her Savior. She wasn't sure what to do, but she did want to pray and ask Him to save her. She prayed clearly and sincerely. I know that the Lord Jesus came into her life during that time of clarity. She was saved!
Not long after that, she fell and lost consciousness. The ambulance took her to the hospital where finally a doctor could diagnose her and get her the help that she needed. It was such a relief to all of us who had tried to find help for her.
Persevere in doing good, because it's never too late. Believe that your unbelieving family member or friend, no matter how old, can be saved. God is an expert at doing the impossible.