Remember The Golden Girls? Remember how Sophia--the oldest of the Golden Girls--would get a bit out of line and her daughter, Dorothy, would say, "Shady Pines, Ma!" as a threat to put Sophia into an old folks' home? I think that's how my mom feels ... like she's done something she shouldn't have and now this is her punishment.
Even though she's making progress and recognizes the progress, the fact is that she's in a nursing home. This is the last place she ever wants or wanted to be. She's still picturing the sterile, white, personality-lacking nursing home of days of yore. The truth is that she's in a really nice facility with a super staff and it never smells like pee. But, because she doesn't want to be there and she has to be there, my sister and I and our families make every effort to visit with her whenever we can.
Through these visits, I've come to see some life lessons emerging through my interactions with the residents. These are lessons that speak loudly and clearly to me. They are begging me to write about them. So I am.
If You're Standing, You're Helping
With the help of my mom and a few others who are still mentally sharp, I've come to know some of the residents by name at Shady Pines. One of these is a former doctor in our small town. I remember he treated my dad for skin cancer when I was in first grade ... that's how old he is. He's wheel chair bound but can maneuver himself all over the facility with ease by walking his feet. When he's tired, he doubles over, places his head on his knees and sleeps. A lot of the time, he's in front of the television--directly in front of the television--and he's doubled over sawing logs.
When dinner time comes, the staff will gently wake him, if he's not racing around the facility, and help him to his table. Then, when they go to retrieve his food (he's on a special diet, so it can't just be left at his table), he'll whisk himself away yet again. The staff will help him back to his table yet again, and they'll leave him to his food. Then he'll wheel himself away yet again. This goes on for the entire dinner hour. Because of his aversion to eating or forgetfulness about what he's doing at the table, he must drink a special strawberry-flavored drink for nourishment and medication.
One particular dinnertime, my mom was finished, and we had moved from the dining room to the living room. My mom was positioning herself so I could sit in a chair, and we could visit. Before I could sit, the good doctor wheeled himself to me and handed me his strawberry drink.
"Why don't you take a few more sips?" I asked, handing him the drink. He obliged and handed the drink right back before quickly zooming to the television set and falling asleep.
I took the drink back to the dietary workers. They smiled and went to retrieve the doctor once again. As I walked back to my waiting mom, Another resident asked for help with her apron. Another asked me to button his shirt. Another needed me to pick up her tissues and another wanted me to push her back to her room. The staff there is great; let's be clear about that. But, the residents need constant help and things like removing a bib and picking up tissues will be dealt with after things like cleaning a patient and ensuring medication is taken.
Besides that, I could help, so why wouldn't I? I don't imagine that any of the residents said, "I hope I lose the ability to help myself so that someone will have to do for me the tiniest of tasks." But, that's the situation they are in, whether they know it or not.
So, while I can, I will be helpful--not just at Shady Pines, but wherever I find myself.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10