My mother has lived in a nursing home for almost 2 years. She was diagnosed with dementia in 2006, and started to slowly decline in the fall of 2006. She was then 63 years old. She is now also crippled, as she has had 2 broken hips that have never successfully healed. As a result, she is confined to a wheel chair full-time. I am starting to get to know the residents that live with her, and who now are becoming her friends. My mom has not wanted to interact much with the others up until recently. Each week that I spend time with these people, my heart seems to open up just a little bit more. At times my heart aches with sadness as I think of how these elderly are hurting, alone, and trapped inside their frail bodies. At other times, I am filled up with a joy and peace remembering how when I talked to them or shared a smile, their forlorn faces just lit up with love. This has been a very difficult journey for our family, but through it all, I hold on tight to all of the promises of God…like “God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble” Psalm 46, or “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13, …and many many other verses of truth that hold me up and give me hope. The following is sort of a poem that I wrote after a visit to the nursing home the other day.
Lord~ I see you in the eyes of Jan, who has had 3 massive strokes and is now unable to move and hardly talk. I see you in the eyes of her devoted daughter Pam, who is often at her side, feeding her or making her smile with her funny jokes.
I see you when I tell Jan, “You look super GREAT today Jan!” (which she really did, since 2 weeks ago she had nearly died after her third stroke), and Jan responds with a gleam in her eye, as she stutters out a joke with some words that I conclude to be, “You’re not just saying that because they paid you?”
I see you in the vividly blue eyes of my mom, who on this particular visit, was uncharacteristically motivated to get dressed and have some make-up put on, something she has not done for a long time. I see you as I roll my mom to lunch and as we share our time together…having a pleasant conversation, that is filled with lots of repetition, but is also filled with a rare interest and inquisitiveness from my mom. I see you in her bright eyes, as I savor her questions and openness, as she is usually more closed off in her own world.
I see you in the lonely and lost face of Lois, when I tell her that I love her sweater that she has on, and mumbles something that I’m not quite sure of, and yet I act like I know exactly what she said and smile and carry on a conversation. I see you as her face lights up from the attention, and as I hear another resident say, “That’s the most I’ve seen her talk in a long time”.
I see you Lord, in the eyes of Freida, who is crippled and unable to talk. I see you as her frustrations of her not being understood, are suddenly transformed, as her sweet eyes show her love and gratitude when I finally figure out what her need is (to have her chair moved).
I see you Lord, within these precious and loving souls, who are trapped within their frail and broken bodies….yearning for someone to touch them, to notice them, to befriend them,to remember them, and to accept them.
I pray for all of the nurses, aides, doctors, and families who help care for all of them. Lord, give them your compassion, patience, and love to be your hands and feet….and above all else, to remember your profound and powerful words of,
“Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to Me.”