I can tell you, the rewards of visiting shut-ins are soul-satisfying. You’ll have felt their hurt, their pain. They’ll be part of you. You’ll have treasured memories of the giving and sharing in the life of a family member, or the life of a total stranger.
The last three months of Mom’s life, our family decided to place Mom in a nursing home. I was in a quandary about taking a three year old granddaughter, Jessica, on a visit to her great-grandmother. Both seemed to fear each other. Wanting to please both, I decided to take them on a wheel chair spree through the halls. My granddaughter sat on the back shoulder of the chair, with my chest for support. Mom had her seat of honor on the wheelchair. Both were now happy and secure, waving enthusiastically to neighbors as we passed them in the hall.
I learned from my sister, Anita, who was recuperating in a hospital, after a stroke, at the age of 50. She told me, “It’s not easy existing in a body you can’t control. All stroke victims are different, but most times we can hear, think, and know. I was hurt by some unintentional overheard remarks about my facial features from visitors.”
Upon visiting shut-ins through our church program, my husband and I intended to cheer the patients. It was Ed, a 10 year bed-ridden patient, who made us the recipients. “Look at my birthday cards in the top drawer,” or “Boy, do I have a good story for you.”
Some patients don’t have any relatives or friends to visit them through the year. This wasn’t the case with Evelyn. While visiting, two others came by to see her as well. The woman sharing her room, motioned me to come to her side.
“You know, I pitied that lady (Evelyn) so much this morning, when she told me all her relatives were out of town and unable to visit her. But, all day long people have been in and out of this room visiting her. It doesn’t stop. Who are these people?”
I answered, “Her church family, neighbors, and friends.”
Mary had a two-fold loss. In a car accident, her husband died and she ended up with partial disability. During rehab one day, she had to practice peeling a potato, in order to gain better use of her hand. She quipped to the nurse, “I think I’ll have a baked potato instead!”
I learned of acceptance through Ruth. She had related to me, on a previous visit, that she was thinking of giving her clothes to someone in need. She felt her dresses were too constrictive and robes and nightgowns would be more comfortable since her hip operation.
I happened to come upon the scene one day, when a nurse was helping her pack clothes for someone needy. I mostly listened.
“I loved that blue dress so…” and her tears flowed freely. After completion of the task, Ruth swallowed hard, turned to me cheerfully, “And now, let’s talk of some good things.”
Amy was a feisty 89 year old. She was always in good spirits, even in her bouts with chest pains. On one of my visits, Amy told me she was taking all her children to dinner that night. I asked, “Is this a special occasion in your family?”
“Yes,” she said with an impish smile, “it’s my last supper.”
Some of my treasured memories have come from sharing in the lives of my parents, shut-ins, and hospice patients. They ask so little of us---a visit, a hug, reading, or simply holding their hand or stroking their face. Who knows? One day someone might do the same for me/