Yesterday I went to visit a colleague in a Nursing Home.
He is not old, even if you consider 70 to be old.
He has his mind, it’s his body that’s evading him.
I found him alone in the hallway, in his wheelchair,
shaking, eyes open, legs dangling in the dingy light of
the facility. This image, not new to me, hit me like a
brick wall of hard emotions that I could taste in the back
of my mouth.
I gathered my best happy air of “alisonness” and strode
forward waving. He greeted me, not by name, but in
full recognition asking where my dogs were.
His head was hanging low and it was difficult to get in
his eye line of sight. There were no chairs and I didn’t
expect him to play Host and offer me a seat. No one
came by, no one seemed to exist. I crouched down to
his eye level with a large degree of silent discomfort.
We chatted, or rather I blathered on and made happy
conversation about the state of the Real Estate world at
our office. He like I, loves his profession. His eyes grew
wide when as I shared a recent victory over multiple
counter offers.
I wanted to stay longer, but it was challenging. No place
to sit, my legs and back not allowing me to sprawl out
on the cold floor.
His voice got weaker, his hands trembled in all
directions, so I took his painfully thin hand in mine and
held it there. I wanted him to know that I was there, I
was ALL there with him. He gently pulled my hand to
his lips and placed a sweet, soft kiss, reminding me not
to tell his wife.
I told him, or rather bold face lied directly to him, that
I’d see him out in the field soon. I don’t know why that
slipped out. I guess I wanted it to be true. I wanted to
see him in his famous red tennis shoes.
As I left, I was heartbroken, but sage. I knew it was
his time soon, whatever the hell that means. But what
pierced me to the core was the state of the facility; not
that it was dirty, not that the people were unkind, but
because it is the proverbial institution where most of
us go to say goodbye to this life, this world, and it is
UNACCEPTABLE to me.
These places are lonely, depressing. Why does it have
to be that way? Why are there not more volunteers
brightening up the hallways with smiles, laughs, and
the crucial physical touch — other than that of a needle
or pill dispenser.
What can we do as a country, as a united world to
respect our elders, our people in the final transition of
their earthly lives?
I feel somewhat guilty writing this as this particular
facility in Torrance is probably one of the nicer ones.
I know much worse exists out there; I’ve seen them
during my mom’s voyage. And yet end of life should
not be like this. Many of these souls are not ready to
pass on. Many of these souls don’t have family visiting
them, holding their hands while they wait… silently
terrified of what comes next.
Please, please with all my heart and core of my being,
I beg you to visit, visit ANYONE in a nursing facility. Once
a month, once a week. Make a difference in someone’s
life. They need you. They need a hand to hold. It may
hurt but it will make a difference in someone’s heart.
Many love you.
Make a difference in someone’s life…
Alison

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