A Letter, Continued

So I arrived at your house that Saturday afternoon with Abbie, Anna, Micah, and Elijah, not entirely aware of what I would find. I was told you were in a lot of pain, that you would need help in the coming days doing odd jobs like watering your plants or changing laundry. You were in a lot of pain, it was true, but it went beyond that. You were sick from the many medications you were on, and you needed a nurse. But since I was the only one there at the time, I took on those duties, murmuring to myself what was I getting into and where were your family members at a time like this? We sang some songs together, we sat and talked. I helped you back into bed and prepared some of your medicine. Although what was needed from me was more than expected, I came away from my visit happy that I could help you and eager to come help you again.

The next day I was told you were taken to the hospital, to be moved into a nursing home when the paperwork was ready. You couldn’t handle the pain at home any longer, having to be alone and do things for yourself. I was so relieved to hear this, because I had seen firsthand how difficult a time you were having at home. In fact, it was the inadequacy of your home that started all this: you tripped over a crack in your front walk, and fell. I thought about how I could rant about that, too, saying where was your family in this, taking care to fix your walk? But life is not so black and white; laying blame doesn’t do any good.

The first day I visited you at the nursing home you were sitting up in a recliner, looking very discouraged. The pain continued to overshadow everything, and you found it very hard to trust the LORD in this trial, let alone remain positive about your recovery. I read some verses to you and you mentioned that you didn’t have a Bible. I came home and found a large print Bible I had, and our Bible on cd set, since you said you had a cd player. Either way, I thought, this would be a great way for you to be encouraged as you waited on God.

The next day I visited you at the nursing home, you lay in your bed. You reached up your arms as I walked in, saying you needed a hug. I went to you right away and gave it, wishing to pass some strength to you through my arms. You were particularly down this day, feeling like your physical therapy didn’t go well. It sounded, too, like the aide that walked you down to therapy either couldn’t or didn’t want to understand your limitations and treated you harshly. I had heard some horror stories of the way patients could be treated in nursing homes, and my hackles went up at the thought of something like that happening here, at the end of my own road (!) and I felt sad for you and the other residents.

I left that day, planning on visiting you again in a few days, thinking of what else I could bring you that would lift your spirits.

The day before I was to visit you, Luke met me on the road during my run and told me you had passed away. You had been on your way back from a physical therapy session and had had a type of seizure. It was a shock to me. Even though you were old, I really thought you would recover from this and be okay. I have only had a handful of people I know die, and you I had only ‘known’ for two weeks!

I went to your calling hours. The funeral followed, but I didn’t think I should bring all the children to it, so I missed that. It sounded really nice. It is bizarre to see someone dead whom you’ve just seen alive days before. Undertakers are very good at making people look natural, almost alive, and you looked very nice.

So it has been a few weeks since your death, and I have been thinking over all that happened. What a strange turn of events. After all, I simply volunteered to go help a lady water her plants. In the end, I now know a couple of other ladies a little better, I now have a desire to connect with the residents of the nursing home at the end of my road, I now have a little better knowledge of how fleeting life is, and to make the most of opportunities right in front of me. Thank you, Maxine. I was the last friend you made, and that last part of your life made a difference in mine.

A Letter

Dear Maxine,

We only struck up a friendship last month, and already it is time to say goodbye.

A friend recommended Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You And Me Forever, and Luke and I had started reading it. I was convicted and challenged by a phrase in there, quite simple really, that said, “Err on the side of action.” This means we shouldn’t wait for God to tell us to do some things. Some things are right there in front of our faces to do, and we wait around listening for God’s voice before we step out, then after a while of silence we figure we weren’t meant to do that, anyway, someone else was. But Francis was candid: What is the worst that can happen when you decide to act out in love? So it stayed with me, this feeling, this knowledge- why not look at the opportunities all around me to love like what they were?

Pastor Mike emailed our prayer chain with the news that you had fallen and broken a vertebrae in your back. You would be down for a while, and needed some ladies to come over and sit with you, do odd jobs for you like water your plants or change your laundry. He ended the email asking us all to pray that ladies would volunteer. As I began to pray for this, it hit me- why would I pray for ladies to volunteer to encourage you, when I was a lady who could volunteer? I texted Pastor Mike and told him I could come over the next day.