Friday, January 27, 2012

A Day for Good-byes

Once a month, my daughters and I visit residents at a local nursing home.  We do not know anyone there, we go as volunteers for St. Vincent de Paul through our church.  Every month, my daughters don't want to go.  In the beginning, they were scared.  Naturally, since they are just 5 and 7 and never been to a nursing home before.  The smells, the people who don't have their mental capacities anymore, wheelchairs galore.  All that combined with the fact that nursing homes are just depressing places.  After going a couple times, they knew what to expect and were better.   But they still hate going.  The funny thing is, when we leave, they admit feeling good and happy they went.  I think they just don't like the idea of going.  They would rather continue playing.    The nursing home residents love seeing the girls faces.  They just light up when we come down the hall or into their rooms.  And my children are learning one of life's most important lessons:  in giving, we receive.  They get so much out of going and feel so good about it when we leave.

We have been going for about a year now and the girls began to talk and interact with the residents.  They had their favorites.  It was funny who they liked.  Some for their name, some for their ages, some because the resident had a dog visiting them.  Some because they received a piece of candy.  But then there are the others.  The ones who are most lost.  The ones who don't have anyone.

We love Clarence, a WWII vet.  We call him our hero.  He loves it.  But a few months ago, he had a stroke.  I am not even sure he recognized us today.  We couldn't understand what he was saying to us.  It was sad.

June is a favorite, even though we haven't seen her every month.  I think they like that she is named after a month.  This morning, Camille was insistent that we find June. "Let's find June."  So we went looking for her and couldn't find her.  We asked a nurse.  June passed away this morning.  The girls were sad that they didn't get to see her one last time but after a moment, Camille said, "She is looking down on us now and knows we came to visit her."  I smiled and reassured her that was true.  Claire added that she was much happier now.  Yes, that is so true.

We went on.

Another resident, I will call her Helen, was one of the neediest ones.  She was very old and always held a baby doll.  My girls were amused with that.  Helen is a beautiful woman, even in her old age.  Clear blue eyes and beautiful, healthy, long blonde/gray hair.  Not a tooth in her mouth and intelligible words.  The first time we saw her and introduced ourselves, she took a liking to the girls.  She talked, but with what I could understand, I could tell that her mind was not what it had once been.  She held her baby doll like it was real.  I was touched by it.  On our second visit to the nursing home, she saw me walking down the hall.  Once our eyes met, hers face lit up with recognition and she immediately looked down to see if I had the girls with me.  Of course, I did.  Her face lit up even more.  My girls followed my lead and weren't scared to touch and hug this beautiful woman.  We saw her every time we went.  Until today.

She wasn't in the common areas as she usually was, so we asked about her.  Helen is no longer with us, either.  The tears welled in my eyes as well as my girls.  Helen, without words, touched each of us.

"Why are they all dying?"  Camille asked.  "It is part of life.  Although we are sad because we miss them, they are now with God in His Kingdom," I responded.  "Yes," she said, "and now they are happy and healthy."

We talked about how we made new friends today that need us.  New friends to visit.  Gail, who is obviously sad and lonely.  Who cried, and hugged and then smiled by the time we left.  And the 94 year old resident who had a fun rhyming name.  And there were still our old friends Agnes and Viola and more.

We said our prayers for them all.  We thanked God for giving us the opportunity to know them.  We thanked God for letting them touch our lives as much as we touched theirs.

My girls are learning the circle of life.

1 comment:

Trace said...

Beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing.

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