I ignored the lady who came to church. She talked about visiting in nursing homes, about a special series of classes which would equip those who wanted to become a “pastoral visitor”. My shyness and my lack of compassion for old people prevented me from considering such an idea. I had no time for such things, I worked full-time.
Over the next month, my thoughts involuntarily turned to nursing homes. The words plagued me at the most inopportune times. I heard “you should call that lady” as I sat watching television and while I drove to work. The voice in my head became more insistent. “Call that lady!!” was played over and over in my mind until I could not shut her up any longer. I relented. I thought that if I just took the classes I would have peace.
Why I kept the small pamphlet with the number is a mystery, but there it was on my dresser. I called. Lucky me, the next series of classes started that very week.
That week the boss called me to his office. He offered me a job in a new office and would have to work the late shift on Thursdays. I would have the morning free. I accepted the position.
With the new certificate in hand, I contacted the local nursing home and arranged a meeting with the volunteer coordinator. Rather than visit various residents, I asked if I could be hooked up with someone who needed company. Hannah and I were introduced and we became instant friends. Some months before she and her daughter had a falling out. There was no one else to visit her. All her friends were far away. She had no other family. The multiple sclerosis kept Hannah in a wheelchair but she loved to watch TV as she did needlepoint with plastic canvas.
As I said goodbye the first day, she asked if I would be visiting her again. I told her I would come again next Thursday. Then she asked “how many other people do you visit?” When I told her “I just visit you Hannah” Her face lit up and she held my hand. “Thank you.” My heart melted. This was meant to be.
I visited Hannah every Thursday morning. I looked forward to talking with her. She told me stories of her youth, complained about the food at the nursing home and wanted to know all about my family. I kept the bird feeder outside her window filled with seeds and we watched the goldfinches and sparrows fight for a perch. On nice days, I wheeled her into the fresh air and we walked around the gardens. I went to the local video store and rented her a few movies a week. All the golden oldies were her favorites. “Casablanca”, “The African Queen” and “Lawrence of Arabia” and any of the “Murder She Wrote” movies were her favorites. I decorated her room for Christmas and made a point of dropping in on her birthday. (even if it wasn’t Thursday)
Over the years I watched her deteriorate. Her heart broke when her hands could no longer hold the needlework or a book. The time came when she could no longer change the channel on the television, insert a movie to watch or even feed herself. On Thursdays, I would often stay long enough to feed her lunch. She developed bed sores on her heels and backside. It became difficult for her to sit in her chair. She was given a reclining wheelchair and every morning they used a mechanical lift to take her out of bed and plop her into the chair. Sometimes I would come into her room to find her slumped over in an awkward position, her call bell out of reach. I became her watchdog. I dropped in after work sometimes just to make sure she was not ignored and uncomfortable. I had to remind the staff constantly to make sure her call bell was within reach.
Life for Hannah became something ugly. She spent her days in pain and alone, unable to move her legs or scratch an itch. In all the years I visited Hannah, her daughter never came even though she lived twenty minutes away. It saddened her that she no longer saw her grandchildren. Sometimes I brought my grandchildren to visit. I loved to see a smile on her face as she spoke to the children about their school and ballet classes.
I received a phone call early one Thursday morning. Hannah had died through the night. I rushed to the nursing home to say goodbye. She was lying in her bed, her face relaxed. I spent some time sitting with her, holding her hand and praying. I was thankful that she would not feel the loneliness of abandonment any longer. She would no longer suffer frustration because she could not help herself.
That very week I was again transferred to another office and no longer had Thursday mornings off. I find it amazing that, just while Hannah and I needed each other, I had Thursday mornings free. I never went back to the nursing home.
I realized that Hannah was my helping hand. She came into my life just when I needed her. My children were at an age where they no longer needed me as much, they were grown up and independent. I was feeling sorry for myself, feeling useless. I felt I lacked value. Hannah taught me to look at all the good things I had. I had my health and a growing family, I had a job and though I was not rich in money, I was rich in blessings. Hannah needed me at a time when I felt sorry for myself and tottered on the brink of depression. She listened to me, she inspired me to make the best of even really bad situations.Hannah saved me.She truly was my helping hand and I miss her.
- Nursing Home Adventures (steadywanderer.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Helping Hand (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt; Helping Hand (terry1954.wordpress.com)