The lobby was anything but inviting. For a nursing home it sure didn't give a very homey-type feeling. Institutional green was definitely the central theme. As I sat in one of plastic "waiting room" chairs I tried to remember why I was here. Oh, yes, now I remember...
"...For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me..." Matthew 25:35-36 (New Living Translation)
I was here to answer a command of Jesus.
I was here to volunteer and give.
I was here to become a better person within myself.
They told me I'd be mentoring one of their most difficult clients.
So, okay, I can handle this. At least I think I can. I mean, how difficult can old person be?
I'd be surly and "difficult" too if I lived in this place.
Looking down the long hallway, I spotted the woman that had been described to me.
She didn't look like a difficult person. Actually she looked like a delicate china doll. A fragile
She came closer then sat in the chair next to me.
Ah, she's lonely. She just wants a friend. This is going to be a piece of cake, I thought.
She looked straight into my eyes and started a verbal tirade that would've had Attila the Hun running for cover. Then she promptly stood and went back to her room, dismissing me completely.
I went home, vowing never to return.
Until I got home.
After calming down, I sat and reviewed this event in my mind. And it got me angry, then determined not to give up on her. After all, this was my "job", not hers. So she was just going to have to learn to do things MY way!
My grandmother was a very wise woman and had instilled in me "...you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar..."
So I called the nursing home , found out she had no diet restrictions and told them to expect me the next afternoon.
The following afternoon I arrived at the nursing home with a basket of homemade muffins.
I was met by the social worker on staff who told me she wouldn't come out of her room.
I asked where her room was and went there. I knocked on the door and told her who I was.
I told her to open the door or I'd kick it in.
She opened the door. I went in and set the muffins on her bedside table. And left.
Then told them at the desk I'd be back the next day. I also told the social worker I'd like some background information on my "friend".
After finding out some things it armed me with valuable insight and ways to make her more vulnerable.
I made daily visits , usually bringing a trinket along as a gift. These visits rarely lasted longer than 15 minutes and there was little conversation. But she was getting used to me and I think starting to look forward to those visits. So was I.
My vacation from work was over and daily visits became weekly ones.
Summer turned into autumn and before very long at all it was Christmastime.
The only Christmas tree the nursing home had was in the lobby. Due to insurance reasons and fire hazards and such no trees were allowed in the rooms.
But my friend had nothing. No tree, no wreath, nothing. Well, that was just wrong!
So I brought a mini tree, complete with ornaments and gingerbread men; a wreath for the door; an angel for her table and a mass of garland. Oh, and lots of fudge and taffy and muffins.
When I arrived , not only was I welcomed in with a smile now but I was rewarded with conversation.
This visit lasted close to two hours.
And I went home with the best Christmas memory ever!
After that we would have tea and cookies and conversations at every visit.
Then one day she told me her deep dark secret. Of course this was after I had confided a few of mine.
It seemed she had been raped as a girl in her homeland. She never told anyone. She had been holding this in for over 60 years! And then she had done the only thing she was expected to do. She married that monster.
The marriage was absolutely horrible for her. Although she tried not to show it, I think she was actually relieved when WWII broke out and he was killed in action.
After finishing this tale she sobbed. I held her until she stopped crying.
This made us friends now, real friends!
Suddenly she was the delicate , fragile china doll I had first encountered with more courage and strength than any of the toughest guys I'd ever met.
I am in complete awe of this woman.
We talked more then I left.
I came back the next day. We had a good visit.
Then spring came. She got sick. She was hospitalized.
I visited there too.
One day she was so pale , so weak, well, I knew Jesus was coming to take her home!
She held my hand and told me I was her best friend. She said Jesus would be there for her any moment and she'd be going home. And then she thanked me. She said the day I came back after she'd tried to chase me off she knew she could tell me her secret and it would be alright.
She said she was finally free from the imprisonment of that secret. She's at peace because she finally told someone.
She's at peace because Jesus came to take her home.
I never saw her again. But I think about her often. And her story.
"...and the truth shall set you free..."
Robbie White is currently studying to become a counselor of domestic violence.She also works with the City Mission,a refuge for the homeless and needy.