I do want to say that the Lord has blessed us in the midst of our difficulties. My father is in a nursing home - and it is pretty much the only one in the area where they live. Yet, the workers there are compassionate and the place is very nice, comforting even. I witnessed one of the nurses being very kind and loving. There was a man in a wheelchair (they're all in wheelchairs - more on that in a minute) and he had a full head of fluffy white hair spiking in all directions - you could see he had been quite good looking at one time. She walked up to him and began smoothing his hair gently and talking to him about combing his hair. She didn't have to do that, but she did - and for a while. He closed his eyes and just enjoyed the touch, the touch that so many old people don't get.
When I first walked into the main hallway of the place, heading to my father's room where he is bedridden at present, I was presented with a gauntlet of old people in wheelchairs scattered all over the hallway from one end to the other, in various positions - facing sideways, forward, backward - and most of them were not moving, or moving very slowly. It looked like a very messy, disarrayed race. Many were bent over or hunched one way or the other and all were dressed in an odd assortment of clothing - red hats, bonnets, sweaters, slippers - hair every which way. As I walked past them, they stared at me - and I stared back. I wanted to make eye contact, say "hello", let them know I knew they existed, if that helped at all. I smiled, but most just continued staring, not smiling. They knew they were on home ground and I was the interloper. They were a tough audience. One woman asked if I could find someone because she had to go to the bathroom - and I hurried off to find a nurse who could assist her. Luckily, one was right down the hall and she went to help. Another man just wanted to be turned in another direction in his wheelchair.
My husband said the most descriptive thing of all - they reminded him of turtles on their backs. Poor, disabled, helpless turtles on their backs, unable to flip.
One woman kept trying to go into the room my father was in. When I mentioned it to a nurse, I was told she likes to "plunder". She opens all the closets and drawers and pulls everything out and puts it in her lap. It was funny and sad at the same time. This was one of the people that did not smile when I smiled at her and said, "hello".
Another woman asked a nurse, "has my daughter been here today?" and the nurse said, "I have no idea, dear." This particular nurse did not seem kind like the others - she seemed to be resentful - but she was the only one, thank God. I wonder if the woman asking has a short memory, so she can't remember if her daughter visited, or if her daughter truly comes, but doesn't stop to see her mother.....
In any case, I hate to leave my father in that place, as if nobody cares for him. We DO!! We just have no other recourse right now. My poor mother was in tears and told me how horrible she felt leaving him there - in such a "foreign" feeling place. Obviously - it's not home.
At one point during me and my sister's visit with my father, he looked around and said, "I keep trying to figure out where the hell this place is!" and we told him he was in the hospital in the town he knows he lives in. A few minutes later he asked again, unsure because it all seemed so unfamiliar.
If I had a million dollars, I'd have a house where my father could live with a nurse to take care of him 24 hours a day - and where all his daughters could visit him and my mother could live and be with him. It would feel like home, and I could visit him and read to him and play music for him.
Right now, I live 2 1/2 hours aways from my parents, and it is a brutal drive back and forth to visit. There is a train that travels to a point 30 miles north of where they are, but that doesn't help, because if we don't drive, how do we get from the train station to where we need to be? Sigh.
God IS blessing us, however. I can't tell you how awful some nursing homes are, although most people know. This one is not bad. My mother goes to visit every day - it seemed to me many of the people in the home where my father is don't have anyone to look after them - but I don't know that for sure.
This is all part of the "march" of life. We start out as babies, grow into children, grow up, marry, have children of our own - and then stand as our parents age and pass on. In my more depressed moments, I think of it as a conveyer belt. You hop on at birth, and it keeps moving until you reach the end, where you fall off at death. But I don't believe death is the end. It is just the shedding of this human "tent" for the eternal. And the eternal looks better every day, the longer I spend on this planet. Even so, Lord Jesus, come - that's my cry.
Wow--I've been thinking the last couple months about exactly what you said in the last paragraph. That we don't think about it much, but life is going to turn out sad in the end, whether we die of disease, or wither away of old age, or see our children or grandchildren die before us, or see our descendants living wildly. Yech. I'm not looking forward to that. We start out expecting so much, we marry and have our families, we struggle with hard things, unbearable circumstances come along, and we die.
Then I realized that this cycle of life WOULD be empty and tragic without something glorious to look forward to. Because of Christ's work, everything I do in every stage of life has meaning that ripples out into eternity.
That's why I can understand Elisabeth Eliot's first husband - Jim Eliot, the missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. He was killed by them in 1955 when he and a few other missionaries with him tried to contact a group in the jungle that had never been reached by civilization before. His famous quote? Here it is:
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
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