I was thrilled beyond words to be a stay-at-home mom! Being at home with my children was such a joy for me, especially being there for them when they came home from school. I was one of those baking moms. Pies, cookies, there was almost always something there for my kids when they came through the door. The joy of seeing their eyes light up was all the thanks I needed. I wish that could have continued throughout their growing-up years.
When our boys were in first and fourth grade, and kindergarten was yet a year away for our little girl, my husband approached me with the request that I find work to supplement our income—even though his job paid well. I was old-school and could not appreciate that new Women’s Liberation movement. The mere notion of choosing a career over my kids, and letting someone else raise them, was, for me, unimaginable. So, I agreed to the only job I could think of that would still allow me to care for our daughter and for our boys after school; I agreed to offer daycare services out of our home. Nowadays it’s called daycare but I called it babysitting.
Back in those days, unlicensed daycare was still commonplace and readily accepted, so I casually initiated a small, word-of-mouth, ‘advertising campaign’, but I was unprepared for the sudden flood of requests I’d receive. Word spreads quickly through the small-town grapevine, and ours was such a town. In no time at all, our little house reached full capacity. The kids would arrive every weekday morning starting at 6:30 a.m. and the last mother would pick up her child 12 hours later, at 6:30 p.m. I was in business.
On a day when our little house was full with toddlers, pre-schoolers and two babies—eleven in all—one of those babies, a girl just three months old, sitting in her carrier seat on the living room floor, began to scream, and scream and scream. When nothing I did would soothe her, I knelt down in front of her, gently touched her forehead and prayed, asking the Lord to please heal her of her pain.
Instantly, I ‘saw’ what looked like a blanket softly touch the top of her head and slowly descend, gradually covering her whole body. As it moved, each part of her body it touched would visibly relax. The moment that ‘blanket of peace’ reached the bottom of her little feet, the screaming abruptly stopped, and she fell instantly asleep. I just sat there staring in awe, thankful for Him.
After two years caring for other people’s children in addition to my own household, I was exhausted from the pace and needed a rest, so I closed up shop. When my husband had first requested that I get a job, I told him I was unwilling to even consider working outside the home until our daughter was at least six years old. Ironically, I got out of the daycare business just before my daughter’s sixth birthday, and around that same time, I attended a three-month bible study about a wife’s submission to her husband.
Soon after our daughter’s birthday, my husband approached me again. “Do you really believe what you just learned about submission?” he asked. When I assured him that I did, he then asked with a challenging look, “Will you get a job then outside the house?” I was taken aback. I’d only just quit the daycare, which is why I’d even had time for that study in the first place. He knew how much I needed a break. It’s not as though we were living beyond our means. He also knew how I felt about being there for the children when they got home from school; how I didn’t want our kids growing up, always coming home to an empty house, like I did.
My husband just sat there armed with his challenging stare, daring me to say no. But, considering what I’d just learned, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite to the Lord, so I bowed to my husband’s will and said yes—with one condition. I told him I would only apply at the local nursing home, but if they didn’t hire me right then during the interview, that would be the end of it. I felt sure I had outwitted him and was safe behind that one condition. He replied in anger, “That’s not fair! NO ONE hires anyone at the first interview!” “Really?”, I said. “Well, that’s my condition.” Imagine MY shock when at the end of the interview the director asked, “Can you start work Monday?”
Preparing to Serve:
Prior to starting that nursing home job, I’d gone to a fellowship meeting with others who love the Lord, and when the man who was ministering gave an invitation for personal prayer, I went up. When he got to me, he told me to wait until he’d finished with the others because he wanted to talk to me, so, of course, I quietly waited.
When he finally came back, he grabbed my hands and held them, saying, “Your spirit leapt within you when I came to you earlier.” I thought, “How could he feel that?” He continued, “You’re very precious to Jesus. He wants you to know that you are very precious to Him.” Inside, all I could think was, “Me???” But, hearing that also made me so joyful. After we were done, he asked me one more question. “Do you work anywhere?” I told him I was starting a job at the nursing home. He smiled with joy, and said, “Ah. That’s why the Lord wanted me to ask! He wants to anoint your hands for service!” He then grabbed my hands again and prayed this wonderful prayer, that the Lord would anoint me for those people and touch their lives through me as I worked.
Wow. Did Jesus sure answer THAT prayer! I witnessed His many miracles, and He touched my heart too through so many residents during my four and a half years working there. They were all such real people, broken, imperfect, genuine—just folks. And, Jesus sure does love His folks.
I started out working in food services, low man on the totem pole, and at first my primary responsibility was simply to assist the rest of the kitchen staff with whatever they needed. My first day on the job, I was setting the tables for supper when right away I met a peculiar character named Clara, a resident who often came early to the dining room.
Clara was very tightly wound, crabby and intense, with almost no sense of humor. Her introverted gaze seemed permanently affixed to the floor, head held low, as low as it would go. She never lifted her face and rarely made eye contact with anyone. She’d held her right arm, bent at the elbow, pressed up against her side for so long that the muscles had atrophied and it could no longer be budged from her side. Man, was it hard to give her a bath! And, just trying to get her arm through a sleeve would cause anyone to break out in a sweat.
That day I first saw Clara, she was rubbing her chin with napkins. Later I learned that she was required to buy her own tissue, because she had such a nervous habit of rubbing her chin with Kleenex by the fistful, that she could empty a box in under two days.
As a young woman, Clara had not been allowed to marry or go out on her own. Instead, she was expected to remain at home, her mother’s constant companion. One Friday evening, while Clara was working at a small town bank, the Dillinger gang showed up and robbed it. She and her co-workers were held at gun point and terrorized. At one point, she even had a gun hard against the back of her head. Eventually, they were all shoved into the bank vault, and locked inside until the following Monday morning. The entire time they were terrified, certain that at any moment the door could open and they would all be killed. Once Clara had made it safely back home, she had several nervous breakdowns from which she never recovered.
One striking symptom of Clara’s condition was her compulsive tendency to repeat a phrase over and over. I learned that her nervous breakdowns had created something like grooves in her mind similar to those of an old vinyl record. As she spoke, her brain would routinely jump the track and fall into a ditch, and until it could get out and back on track, the last phrase she spoke would automatically repeat, with Clara helpless to prevent it.
One night after supper, with her wheelchair out of commission, I patiently assisted Clara back to her room. Though it was only a short distance away, we shuffled along an inch at a time for a full half hour with Clara repeating phrases every inch of the way. As that half-hour dragged on, her repetitive compulsion began to wear on me, and having not yet learned of her condition, I could feel myself growing more and more irritated. In a lame attempt to distract her, I tried asking questions, but with every answer, she would just end up jumping the track on each last phrase, over and over and over and over.
By the time we’d finally arrived at her room, I’d had more than enough, and through gritted teeth I said, “Clara, if you repeat yourself one more time, I’m going to turn right around and walk out of this room!” Right away she said, “I’m sorry. I can’t seem to help myself. I repeat myself a lot. I repeat myself a lot. I repeat myself a lot…” I burst out laughing, helped her down into her chair, kissed her on the cheek, turned and left the room.
From that one humorous moment we shared, and later learning the truth of her condition, my heart melted toward her repetitiveness, and never again did it irritate me.
One night, I had taken her to the bathroom and sat her down on the pot. Suddenly, for the first time since I’d known her, she lifted up her head, looked me right in the eyes and smiled. I was jolted in surprise. She heaved a deep sigh, and with such an expression of serene joy upon her face, she quietly said, “ChloeGrace, I just had the most beautiful dream.” Again, I was startled, as she’d rarely ever used my name. When I asked her about her dream, she replied, “I was in Heaven, and I saw my mother and sister. It was so beautiful there! They’re waiting for me.” She sighed deeply in contentment as her head slowly returned to its customary, low position. I said, “Oh, Clara, that is so wonderful! If you get to Heaven before I do, will you tell Jesus, ‘ChloeGrace says Hi’?” Already back to her normal state, she curtly replied that she would.
A month later she quickly began to weaken, and in a few short days she died. He had prepared her beforehand. How awesome is that?
I knew a man at the home who was always happy and content, though he rarely spoke. He was a small man named Ray. At least, that’s what I’ll call him, since I’m not quite sure now that I remember his name.
In the dining room one night, after having finished his meal, Ray had been temporarily parked in his wheelchair off to the side between two small tables. I was hand feeding bites of food to a resident when I noticed Ray sitting there quietly waiting for his attendant to return. He was dressed in his pajamas, with a long, fluffy blanket covering his legs. He looked all sparkly clean like he’d just had a bath.
As I observed him between bites, I noticed he was smiling so big with his hand up in the air, thumb and forefinger slightly apart, as he carefully examined the quarter inch of empty space in between. He looked like a jeweler holding an invisible diamond up to the light, scrutinizing it for clarity.
Puzzled by this odd behavior, I finally asked him, “Ray, what in the world are you looking at?” He looked at me, smiled with joy and surprise, and said, “Why, I thought it was a raisin, but I guess it’s just a sheep turd.”
Bill was a resident who all the caregivers feared, including me. He was a mean, toothless, drooling, dirty-faced old man with a thick beard full of crumbs who only ever wore a white T-shirt under faded, blue overalls with one strap dangling. He had no qualms about hitting you on the back with his heavy cane when you made him angry, and it seemed he was always angry. I think it’s safe to say, nobody liked Bill.
My strategy for dealing with Bill was simple yet effective. I just stayed as far away from that cane as I could. At mealtimes, I would stand some distance away on the other side of the table, lean in and carefully s.l.i.d.e over to him his plate of pureed food. Then, I would walk away while he hollered at the top of his lungs, “I CAN’T EAT THIS FOOD!! IT LOOKS LIKE SH*#T!!” I couldn’t help but chuckle at that, because it was a true statement.
Sometimes as he would eat, I’d be standing there in the kitchen watching him, wondering why he was so mean. The entire time I was there with Bill, I never spoke a word to him—not..one..word. Yet, often when I looked at him, I could FEEL the LOVE of Jesus for him come out of me and flow toward him. It was HUGE!
As time progressed, Bill only got meaner, and after several months, he was moved to a different facility. On the morning he was to leave, he came down to breakfast for his last meal there, and as usual, his indignation resounded. After his breakfast, I was standing at the coffee machine when he got up to leave. Upon his approach, I pressed myself up as close to that machine as I could, hoping he and his cane wouldn’t notice me. When he had finally shuffled on by, I felt relieved, but then, just three steps away he stopped dead in his tracks. Suddenly, he turned completely around, shuffled up close, threw his arms around me and planted a huge, slobbering kiss right on my mouth!!! He about-faced again, and shuffled away. I stood there dumbstruck, my mouth hanging open.
An Unnamed Friend:
After seven months, my position changed from kitchen help to nurse’s aide, so I said goodbye to the dining room and went to work out on the floor as a caregiver. During my nearly four years as an aide, I cared for many precious souls. I shared with them the often open and vulnerable experiences of their sunset years; sweet experiences of love and joy, humorous moments of awkwardness and laughter, humbling scenes of fear, loss of dignity and frustration, and brutal times of painful suffering and for me, loss of dear friends.
One bedridden woman I cared for briefly, I don’t even remember her name. She had lung cancer and didn’t live long enough for me to get to know her well. It’s hard to describe her, as she was usually on her side, face in her pillow, but I remember she was a small woman, and very thin, moaning constantly for the pain. I felt such compassion for her unceasing agony.
Even when not assigned to her wing during my evening shift, I would still take the time to visit her, talk to her a little bit and v.e.r.y gently rub her back. I felt awful for her, and crying inside, one day I said, “Oh, I would help you with your pain if I could. But there’s nothing I can do.” And she answered, “You’re giving me the love of God. There’s nothing better that you could give me.” Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. I wish I could remember her name.
Dode was a resident with big hands and feet who I liked very much. Though I only knew him confined to a wheelchair, with his legs atrophied in a permanent, bent position, I surmised he must have been a very tall man back in his heyday. He was nearly bald with only a few wispy, white hairs around the back of his head and behind his ears.
He seemed to me a very content and happy soul. His dark brown eyes always twinkled with joy, his wide open mouth in a big, toothless grin. In the nearly five years I’d worked at that nursing home, I never once saw him any other way. He was also a very quiet man. I’d not heard him speak a word in all the time I knew him. In fact, I didn’t think he could—until this one night…
After I’d gotten him all tucked into bed, I leaned over and gave him a good night kiss on the cheek and said, “Oh, Dode, you are just so cute!” All at once, he replied, “Oh… sh*#t!”, his toothless grin bigger than ever. I burst out laughing and said, “Why, Dode, you just got yourself another kiss!”
Anna was a very sweet and beautiful woman, genteel and quiet, friendly and open, with a thick head of silvery-white hair. She lived on the wing of the nursing home for residents who needed supervision yet could still manage their own care. Today we call it “assisted living.” Anna would put on a tiny bit of make-up at dinnertime and walk the long trek to the dining room, smiling and greeting everyone she met along the way.
When I was assigned to that wing, I had little actual work to do, so I could visit with the residents a lot, and still be on hand to help another aide on her wing.
Anna loved her family, and she had a large one. She was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and was due at any time to become a great-great grandmother. One of her chief joys was putting together scrapbooks and photo albums of her family, from long ago up to present day. Fifty years had been involved in the making of those albums; a pictorial collection of her life. She and I spent many happy times as she showed each picture to me and shared little anecdotes. Her collection of albums had gradually grown to quite a large number.
Her family would visit her often, and they had marvelous times together. When they came, Anna seemed more radiantly beautiful than ever. She lived there for the first year I worked, and we became good friends.
One night, though I wasn’t working her wing, I heard that one of her children came to visit and had brought the family. Being tired of her photo albums, and of hearing her talk about them, they threw them all away in front of her.
After they left, no family came back to visit anymore, and she began to fade away. All the joy and light went out of her face and eyes. She wasn’t physically sick, yet she stopped eating and visiting with other residents. She barely spoke to me anymore either. By the end of the month, she died. That was my first realization that one could actually die from a broken heart.
Bernice was a mentally handicapped woman with cloudy eyes behind thick coke-bottle glasses, who’s head was always down, chin to chest. She’d been raised by her grandmother and never spoke a day in her life. After her grandmother’s death, with no other family to care for her, Bernice had been sent to the nursing home. She was meek as a lamb, and though she couldn’t take care of herself, she was very compliant and would always follow directions.
One day I tickled her tummy and said, “Bernice, Jesus loves you.” Suddenly, her head came up, the cloudiness disappeared and the color in her eyes returned. She had light and life in her eyes and smiled so big right at me. I backed up in surprise and said, “You know that, don’t you?” She just sat there smiling at me for about three seconds, then the cloudiness covered over her irises again and her head dropped back down.
The world would say Bernice’s life was worthless, that it meant nothing, a ‘useless eater’ just taking up space. Yet, this woman, so inside of herself, having no one in the world as a friend, no family, KNEW that Jesus, the Lord and King of all, loved her!!! She had more than all the wealthiest, smartest people in the world had who did NOT know Him. In my estimation, that is a life worth living.
Carrie was a 97 year old, nearly deaf woman with a neural condition that caused sporadic episodes of intense pain and extreme vertigo. During these frequent, painful episodes, she would grab her head, moaning, and sway hard in her wheelchair, feeling as though she was falling off a ten story building.
One day, I was in Carrie’s room tending to Bernice, who was her roommate at the time, when one of these episodes occurred. While holding her head, swaying and moaning, Carrie exclaimed loudly, “Why is the Lord doing this to me? Why is He hurting me like this?” I hollered over her deafness, “He’s not doing that to you, Carrie.” She yelled back, “Well, who is?”
I walked over, gently put my hands on her head and simply asked Jesus, “Please, do something for Carrie.” She stopped her moaning and just stared at me so strangely as I went back to helping Bernice. Over the next three years, though I would occasionally notice her eyes tracking me and would wonder what it is she was thinking, I never again saw her have another episode. The last I heard, she was 107 years old.
Jesus said that our prayers avail much. He is not a man that He should lie, and I know for a fact that His great love is what causes Him to use His mighty power.
Mildred was deaf, one of her legs black from the knee down from gangrene.
Back when I first began working out on the floor as an aide, Mildred was still alert. She was always agreeable and smiled a lot, but she was yet one more person who never spoke a word. Gradually, she began to decline, and was bedridden more often than not. Still, she would smile and welcome me with a nod when I came into her room. I never found out what caused her leg to become so horrible, but it was slowly killing her, and surgery was out of the question in her weakened condition.
One night toward the end, she was having one seizure after another and was completely unaware of her surroundings. Two other aides were there with me in her room at that time while the ambulance was on its way. They were rough and gruff, no-nonsense women who displayed little compassion as they worked. While they were callously turning Mildred’s body to replace the wet pad beneath her so as to maintain their reputation with the nurses at the hospital, Mildred, in the midst of her seizures, eyes still closed, moved her hand over and perfectly through the bed side rails and instantly grabbed mine without even struggling to find it. I can still see her fingers scrabbling across that bed like a crab moving toward my hand. I’d never said a word that entire time, and she didn’t even know I was there, yet she unerringly found my hand and held it tight. Right after that, the ambulance crew entered the room, talking loudly and roughly manhandled her body onto the stretcher.
She was kept at the hospital a week, but then returned to the home, to die I was told. By the end of the following week, she was having great difficulty breathing. She would take in great gasps of air in between long pauses. I was assigned to her floor that day, and would often go check on her. I knew it wouldn’t be long.
Being around death is understandably very difficult for me, but I continually asked the Lord for the strength to stay so that Mildred would not have to die alone. He kept me calm all the way through to the end. I was there when she exhaled one last huge breath and never breathed in again. For a moment, I just stood there looking at her, then I suddenly turned and looked up into the corner of the room, filled with a sudden joy. Her pain was over. I said to her in a happy voice, “Good-bye, Mildred!” Then, realizing how I’d sounded, I felt a little foolish, turned and left to get the nurse.
One aide I worked with, Betty, was an older woman, a hard worker dedicated to the residents, who presented a gruff exterior to mask her tender heart. Betty’s mother lived there at the nursing home. She had gotten cancer, and was moved there once the disease had progressed. I’m sorry to say, I simply cannot remember her name anymore, yet I can still see her continually smiling face, snapping dark brown eyes and snowy white hair. I’ll call her Vera. She was beautiful.
Vera had an open, fun-loving personality and was always goofing around with whoever came into her room. Because she was always this way, I felt free enough to get her this one particular card for Valentine’s Day. It was a huge card, abnormally tall and wide, with fold-out sides.
I saw that Vera’s light was on, came into her room and put her on the pot. She was very sick by this time, her cancer causing her continual and severe pain, and she was gloomy and downhearted. As she sat there, so weak, I gave her the card. She opened each fold, smiling bigger with every turn. When she got to the end, she BUSTED OUT laughing so hard that she almost fell off the pot. The card said, “You’ve crept into my mind. … You’ve crept into my heart. … You’ve crept into my soul.” … Happy Valentine’s Day, you big creep!”
The next night, I was going down the hall to sign out and get my belongings to go home. Suddenly, from behind me I heard the most gut-wrenching, horrible sobs. I turned back, shocked, to see who was making that noise. It was Betty. She was crying so hard she could barely walk. Never had I seen her that demonstrative. I just stood there, my heart hurting for her. She stumbled up to me, threw her arms around me, and held on, sobbing uncontrollably.
I just held her, feeling so very sad for her and her Mom, and completely helpless. I said to her softly, “I would take your pain if I could.” I realized later, He gave me some of it. A week later Vera died.
My first night in training as an aide, I met Hazel, a humble, beautiful lady of small stature with a gigantic heart who was loved by many there. When I first saw her, she was seated in a wheel chair, her broken leg elevated. I stood by observing as another aide helped her to her feet. Surprised, I blurted out, “Hazel! How tall did you grow?” She laughed and said, “I’m 4′ 10.”
Hazel and I quickly became good friends. I would visit her in her room whenever I could. I even brought my children by to meet her and later for occasional visits. She became like my very own grandmother, and I felt very blessed to be able to love her.
Later I was told, her reason for being there was sinus cancer. Eventually, I could see the cancer on her face, above her nose and between her eyes. It was brown and looked like a big scab. Over time it grew more and more prominent, eating up her face. She suddenly became paralyzed because of it; her entire body numb except for a quarter-sized dot in the middle of each cheek. I and the other aides when we visited her, would gently rub that little spot, thankful that she could feel something. She never complained about anything though, even the pain.
One day I came to see her. She had her eyes closed for a while, and I stood there, tears streaming down my face. Despite the ugliness of the cancer, she was very beautiful to me, and it hurt to watch her die. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and said, “You see that window over there? I’d pick up a baseball bat and smash it if I could, but I can’t even pick up a baseball.” Surprised by her words, all I could say was, “I love you, Hazel.” She said quietly but forcefully, “No, you don’t. If you did, you’d do something, and get me out of my difficulty.” I reached over and gently rubbed her cheek, then leaned down and kissed it. In my heart, in addition to Betty’s pain and the loss of Mildred and Vera, I now bore some of Hazel’s pain too.
Six weeks later, on my way to work I said to Jesus, “The pain is too great. I can’t do this anymore. You’re going to have to do something if You want me to keep working there.” I knew the pain lay deep in my spirit, and that only the Lord could heal it. That evening, in Hazel’s room, tears were streaming as I gazed down at her. Finally I said once again, “I love you, Hazel.” She opened her eyes and looked at me with a smile and said in a quiet whisper, “I love you, too. More..than..you’ll..ever..know.” When she said that, I felt the Lord’s hand wipe away some of her pain I’d been carrying in my heart. Though I didn’t know it yet, in just a few, short weeks, the cancer would take her life on a day I wasn’t there.
When I got home that night a little after eleven, I found the house quiet, cut flowers from our garden arranged in vases on the table, candles burning, music playing. My husband came out of the next room, big smile on his face, asking me, “How do you like it?” This was so out of the ordinary. I stood there open mouthed. I asked him what this was all for. He said with joy, “Every day doesn’t have to be a bad day for you.”
We sat down at the table and he began to talk. He talked for two hours, which seemed so strange, as he’d never done anything like that before, nor did he ever again. He talked about spiritual things. He talked with hope and joy. He even said things like, “How do you know that Hazel isn’t right now walking up to Jesus in Heaven and saying to Him, “You know ChloeGrace? She is the kindest and sweetest person I ever knew! Thank You for having her in my life!”
During this talk, about three different times, he would look greatly puzzled, lean back in his chair and exclaim, “I don’t know WHERE this is all coming from! I sure didn’t plan for THIS to happen!” I just smiled because, I knew. While he spoke, I could feel the Lord’s hand inside my spirit, gently wiping away the pain. When he at last sat back in his chair again, threw out his arms and said with finality, “There! I’m done!” all that pain I’d had for Hazel, Mildred, Betty and Vera was completely gone, just… gone.
Bertha and her husband, Magnus shared a room together. They’d been married over 50 years. Magnus never uttered a sound, his mind completely gone. Yet he somehow always exuded great kindness and joy with a huge, open grin plastered on his face. His legs were atrophied and bent at the knees, and because of his big bones, heavy weight and inability to move, it took two aides to get him from place to place. Bertha was a tall woman, around 5’10” and physically very strong. Her mind was also gone, and all she ever talked was gibberish, just nonsense sounds and no actual words. But, she spoke to me clearly three times…
Back when I worked the dining room, I was busy setting the tables. I walked behind Bertha, pushing the cart that carried the utensils. She was uttering her gibberish, but as I walked past her a couple steps, she suddenly turned toward me, reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me to an abrupt stop. I turned and looked at her in surprise. Her clouded-over eyes suddenly cleared up. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re worried about your children, aren’t you? Jesus just wants you to know that He is watching over them, and they will be all right.” Then her eyes grew cloudy again, the color draining from them, and she began to speak gibberish once more. I stood there, my mouth open wide in shock. I HAD been worried about them!
Another time, an aide and I were walking her back to her bed one night. Rather than docilely following us as usual, she veered over to her husband’s bed. She was so strong and so determined, all we could do was follow her. She leaned over the bed rail toward Magnus, who was smiling vacuously up at her, reached out and patted him gently on his thigh, saying, “You’re still the best boy, Pa!” then turned and let us lead her to bed.
Not too many weeks before I stopped working there, she was on the pot, and I was just sitting quietly waiting for her to finish. Suddenly, she sighed loudly with a contented sound, raised her shoulders up and down once, looked over at me and said, “You know .. when you get to the end of the road, it’s not so bad. Jesus is standing there with a smile, waiting for you.”
I walked around that place so much with my mouth and eyes wide, in awe of Him and how He works, how He loves. No one is ever too far ‘gone’ for Him not to flow through when He wills.
When I first met Trygve (pronounced Trig-vee) I was working the Assisted Living wing. It was his day for a shower, and he required assistance, so I helped him, though a little reluctantly, since I’d never showered a man before. During the bathing, he got verbally sexual with me, and I told him to stop talking like that. I think that may have wounded his male pride, because he became angry. From then on, whenever he saw me walking toward him down the hall, he’d give me a dirty look, let go of the handrail and shuffle to the other side. It made me chuckle. He’d only shifted over a few feet, yet he behaved as though he’d just crossed a wide street to avoid me.
After two weeks of this behavior, I finally walked right up to him, looked him in the eyes and said, “Trygve, are you going to be mad at me forever? I’m not mad at you, and I never was. I just don’t want to be talked to that way. Can’t we be friends now?” He gave a sheepish grin and said, “Yes, we can.”
Trygve fell in love with a woman there, a fellow resident who was confined to a wheelchair. I would see them talking and laughing together as he happily pushed her all over the home. Trygve’s lady-love was rich and had a niece who lived in town. When this niece learned of her aunt’s new relationship, rather than be happy for her aunt, she feared the loss of her inheritance. She spoke with a doctor and they somehow managed to have Trygve declared mentally incompetent. Because of that declaration, he lost the right to vote, the right to manage his own money and the right to marry. This broke his heart.
He and I would talk at length in the evenings after lights-out when all my work was caught up. He poured his heart out to me, and I listened to him, helping where I could, but his broken heart could not be mended. Though he was not sick at all, he’d lost the will to live and just died. I’m glad I was able to be there, one friend with whom he could share his pain, in his last month of life.
Gladys was a very sweet, intelligent lady, with a perpetual softness to her face. She and I had many talks and would talk about Jesus all the time. I’d found out she was a Catholic, and though she would talk freely about her personal life and her church life as well, when I would mention Jesus, she always had this look of incomprehension and puzzlement.
We’d become very good friends, so one night, AGAIN on the pot, while talking about Jesus, I suddenly asked her, “Would you like to meet Him?” She said with delight, “Oh, yes!” So I led her in a short prayer which she prayed along with me. Then, she looked into my eyes with great joy. THIS time they were filled with light, life, freedom, and relief. I saw HIM there. After a few moments of silence, she asked me, “Is that it?” I laughed and said it was and that now she could just enjoy Him. She sighed with great contentment, and then I walked her back to bed.
Following closely on the heels of this prayer, Gladys began to decline, growing worse each day, and could no longer get out of bed. Yet, she would look at me with such tender love and a great, big smile so full of joy. The light in her eyes grew brighter and brighter each time I saw her. She never spoke another word, but that Light inside her showed no fear of death and let me know she was all right. As death marched ever closer, the light in her eyes grew only more brilliant and her smile more radiant. I will never forget that. She died a month after praying with me.
Like all caregivers who work the last stop at the end of the line, I witnessed my share of death. Yet, I could not shut away my heart to save myself. I could not help but bear the burden of suffering with those under my care. The more broken and vulnerable they were, the more transparent and humble they were forced to be and the more beautiful they appeared to me. In a nursing home environment, the bathroom is the place of greatest humility, and wouldn’t you know it, Jesus does some of His best work on the pot.
Little Miss Emma was a very beautiful and fun lady who didn’t need much help. We did share many humorous moments together. Once I met her in the hall just standing there with her walker and noticed she was wearing a watch on each wrist. I asked, “Emma, why are you wearing two watches?” She laughed and said, “So I can get where I’m going twice as fast.” She was funny like that, popping in and out of resident’s rooms all day long spreading joy wherever she went. She carried humor in her heart 24/7.
Though I began working there with great reluctance, yet in submission to my husband and the Lord, in retrospect, I am so glad that I did!! After about the first two weeks, once my legs and feet had stopped aching so badly, I began to really enjoy it. Had I not worked there I would have missed the richness of those beautiful, completely honest and spontaneous old folks. I loved most all of them like they were my own family, AND I got to be a witness to Jesus’ great love and care for them.
I found I could learn something from every person I meet when I look upon them with His eyes, even the ones who are unlovely and seemingly unloveable. A charge nurse that I worked with was crude in her speech and appeared unfeeling about the residents and people in general. In a loud and opinionated voice, she would blurt out every thought she had on any subject, and rarely were they good. Yet, I ended up liking her anyway because she was totally honest, so I always knew where I stood with her.
All those experiences I would have missed had I not worked there, and those memories are lit up in my heart. I loved those people. But the atmosphere among the staff grew more toxic every day that passed. Each department felt they did all the work, while the other’s just sat on their lazy butts. It wasn’t true, of course. I’d had to work in each department on occasion when we were short-staffed, and so I knew how each department worked HARD. During times of complaint, I would try to make that truth clear, but it didn’t help. One day, as I walked in the door, the tension inside hit my shoulders like a ton of bricks. I knew I couldn’t keep working in those conditions, so I finally gave my notice and quit.
At last I was able to be around my children once more, actually getting to attend school functions with them again too. I’m glad of that, because in not too long a time, I would be in a serious car accident which would forever change my future.
About 15 years after I’d left that nursing home job, during one of my many conversations with Jesus, He and I were talking about something entirely unrelated, when right in the middle of our discussion Jesus interjected, “Hazel says hi!”
OH!! How it thrilled me hearing Jesus say that; to know she was young and beautiful again, perfect in every way and completely free and able to walk, move, and feel again! I could hug her one day, and she would be able to FEEL it!! I said, “OH! Tell her Hi for me too!”
Jesus and I had resumed our conversation when again He interjected, “Bill’s here with Me, too.”
I sat stunned, unable to speak for a good bit of time. I realized that despite my chickenhearted silence with Bill, He’d touched Bill’s heart anyway, and now I would get to hug Bill in heaven one day, too!
Finally Jesus spoke again and said, “ChloeGrace, I touched more people there through you than you ever knew.”