I amble down the hall at the Sunset Manor,* trying to make eye contact with the wheelchair bound residents lining the walls. Some return my smile. I make my way into the room of our Wings of Hope Hospice patient. Marty* is a white haired gentleman with wire rim glasses. He is a little slouched in a wheel chair. His wife Karen* is sitting on the bed to allow me to sit on the chair next to Marty. She says, “We are just waiting for the staff to bring in our suppers.” The way she says it, I know there is something special about this supper. I am about to learn this will be a supper of celebration of a special event in their lives.
As we chat, they are thankful for the comfort care Marty has received from his hospice home care nurse, CNA, doctor, chaplain, social worker and volunteer. They feel secure in that the hospice care they’ve received at home will continue in the nursing facility.
I mention the change that is taking place in this couple’s life. I had visited at their comfortable home. Marty’s diseased body had left him unable to walk. He had begun crawling on the floor to get where he was going in the house, unwilling to use a wheelchair. When his family could no longer provide in home personal care for him, they realized that home health care was beyond their means.They needed the care that a skilled nursing facility could give him. They understood that a chapter of their lives was coming to an end. Now here they were, husband and wife experiencing his first day in a nursing facility as a patient.
This is a day most of us dread throughout our lifetime. Those who work in such places are generally devoted to their patients much as they are to their own families. The facility staff does their best to make the environment homey. They truly care. Yet it is not the home my friends Marty and Karen have lived in for sixty years. I can tell from their demeanor and countenance that they are having trouble adjusting to this new chapter of their life. He says, “It’s just not the same here.” I can see in their expressions that they are on the edge of tears.
I inquire, “Marty, what has been your source of strength during previous transitions in your life?” Because he is a thoughtful man, he takes a good two minutes to ponder his answer. When he begins to speak, he remembers some of those difficult times. He had once been let go from a job that was his passion – making Gibson guitars – when Gibson moved their manufacturing facility from Kalamazoo to Nashville, TN. He had suffered the loss of family members in death; then a two year mental breakdown. He comments, “I guess I always knew that God is in the middle of these things.” He breathed a sigh of contentment, the realization of God’s presence having an influence on him. He sits up a little straighter in his chair.
Karen informs me with a smile: “Today is our 60th Wedding Anniversary.” She moves closer to her husband, takes his hand in her gnarled, work worn fingers, and looks at him with fondness. He replies with sincerity: “She is a gem.”
She says with 80 year old heartfelt slowness: “I would do it all over with him.” Both of them now have tears on their cheeks.
About that time, an aid brings in a tray with his supper. “Do you like Mexican?” She takes the lid off to reveal bright green lettuce, deep red tomato, mounds of Spanish rice, hamburger and refried beans. “Would like some sour cream Marty? Salsa? A little guacamole?”
A moment later, the aid brings in Karen’s dinner. “Would like some sour cream, Karen? Salsa? A little guacamole?” Both feel honored by the service.
After a prayer of gratitude for God’s presence and provision, husband and wife take pleasure in their dinner with smiles that light up that nursing home room. Their 60th Anniversary Dinner – the most important event of their day – is full of joy.
Photo credit: Craig Gardiner Photography