*People 100 Years or Older
Last week, we shared the story of Basun, a recently arrived refugee originally from Bhutan, who is 109 years old. This week, we share the story of Karna, who is 104 years old.
Karna was resting on the couch when Deo and I entered, but sat up to speak with us with some assistance. From the increased volume in Deo’s voice, I knew Karna must have difficulty hearing and Karna succinctly expressed his infirmities soon after we sat down. “I am at home. I can’t work. I can’t see. I can’t hear.” For being 104 years old, Karna still had a good sense of humor and had us frequently laughing at some of the comments he made about his age. Karna’s family is Hindu and he joked about how when he turned one hundred, he was reborn and now was only four years old. “I’m a baby,” he said smiling.
Karna was born in the eastern part of Nepal and as a young man, immigrated to Bhutan. He spent sixty years in Bhutan moving locations about every twenty years. He worked as a farmer and also as a government official of a district, a kind of “village head,” Deo said. While in Bhutan, he raised a family of three sons and twelve daughters. He was in a Nepali refugee camp for twenty-one years before being resettled to Sioux Falls. I asked how he felt about leaving Nepal and he said he was happy to leave and was comfortable now. Deo tried to translate a kind of poem Karna recited about the many transitions in his life. It went something like this: “You are born in one place, grow in one place; and die somewhere else, the destination is unknown.” I asked about challenges, and Karna expressed concern for his health and about feeling tension with his family “scattered.” Like Basun, he desired family reunification. I found out from Karna’s daughter-in-law that one of Karna’s sons would be resettled to Sioux Falls soon.
As we finished our conversation, Karna’s personal caregiver stepped in to help him recline once more on the couch and cover up comfortably with a blanket. He blessed Deo and me as we left and that blessing continues to be felt. I am happy to know Basun and Karna are able to spend their last years in comfort with access to quality medical care. I am grateful for Deo and the ability to share just a part of their story with you. I am also left reflecting on how the challenges for older refugees—of transportation issues affecting social lives and missing family—are not altogether different from the challenges facing older Americans.
Deo and the rest of the staff at LSS Center for New Americans continue to strive to provide premier service and support for resettled families, but we cannot do it alone. Can you volunteer in our English classrooms or provide mentorship for a recently arrived refugee or family?