Wednesday, June 08, 2016


It is a shame that I pick such a title for today’s reflections since it glorified such an ugly time, but maybe I can redeem these words and concept for something wonderful.

As I enter the long corridor of the rehab facility and look straight ahead, I can see her sitting by herself, her back turned to me as she waits in a blind-like trance. Unaware of her surroundings among the mostly elderly who await either the end of their rehabilitation or the end of the line of life.

She is one of the most fortunate in some sense I yet to have accommodated since the rest of her life will always be guarded. Slowly I come up to her wheelchair and bend down over her to make eye contact, and I suddenly release her from her trance, as she excitedly jumps up and reaches for me.

“Hi Ellen, how are you doing this morning?”

Everyone in her world is MUMMA, everyone who cares for her and seeks her attention in a loving way, I am proud to say I am one of those people!

“Been a good girl? Can I have a kiss?”

She slaps the crown of her now greying head and holds still and awaits my kiss. I roll her away to her room where I take out a large bottle of water, which she sees and immediately indicates she wants some, in a way best described as frustrations and urgent needing to convey her want.

As I pour, she awaits with eager anticipation and when I present the glass to her, she purses her thin lips and hungrily sucks in the water, with a final gasp and a happy smile on her face.

This procedure has been going on since early February and if I don’t do it my wife does when she visits. It has been a tough burden for us, both around 70 years of age and there is not as much stamina as there used to be, driving over 40 minutes one way for our visits and then feeding her her lunch while trying to remain calm and sane, she only speaks two words, one is: “Mumma” and the other: “Happy”: It can be a very difficult conversation for two to three hours. You pray for the day she will go home.

Then one day they tell you she is ready to leave, her broken leg is healed, the very same leg the surgeon said, because of her mental age, she would not ever walk again, that she might lose it but she does. And when she does it inspires you to do the things you think you couldn’t, it makes you understand that sometimes in life, the biggest barriers are you yourself!

Maybe her broken leg was meant for a higher reason I can’t fathom, but I do see some good coming out of it. I found a woman who has no family, no friends and no legs, is partially paralyzed in one arm and had some kind of trauma that leaves her searching for the simplest words. I have been reading to her, and she looks forward to the attention. When I told her I would be back to read to her once a week from hereafter, she broke down and cried, reaching for my hand is disbelief!

Then there is another person, and man, who is without legs, sits by himself but is a lively sort, moves about in his wheel chair, like he was operating a car, swift and deft at it with his two good arms, or the gentleman who sits alone and seeks eye contact as I pass him by, giving out a: “Good morning” with a smile in his eyes. There also sits an elderly gentleman who is in the rehab center for the rest of his life, looks like a mean old sob, but is one of the kindest and compassionate individuals I know. All of these people deal with loneliness, all of them feel the sting and defeat that life has brought to them. I discovered they like to read, so I bring them newspapers, since I get two every morning, and so I go through the rehab center and pass them out to those who love it.

So my little girl has taught me that life is NOT about me, but about those we see and those we meet, all with unique needs and all with their own personal burdens.

Someone once tried to make me pray when I wanted to be by myself, with my own thoughts and prayers, and that someone is not a prayer, but called me disgraceful, and her cohort thought I was not holy enough, like her and so decided to get a nun to talk to me as if it was going to make a difference. But I always found that my religion was my personal relationship with God, it is not a joint effort and I feel it shouldn’t be. If you go to church, fine, don’t try to drag me along when I don’t have that kind of desire. I don’t want to be in public display when I communicate with the Almighty, and seek his solace and blessings alone, without fanfare and don’t care if anyone else knows or doesn’t.

When I feed my daughter her lunch, sometimes she looks me in the eyes and I can see the love she expresses for me, it gives me the stamina to drive 40 minutes each way and to sit for hours with her, knowing she is happy that I came for her. That lessons is for reinforced by the woman in the wheel chair without legs, that is my church, that is my ministry, not the bricks and mortar that others need or the display of self-holiness they project.

When she finally returns to her home tomorrow, I will miss seeing her every day, I will miss her elation both in body and spirit she displays for her daddy, and the quiet lunch we spend together. Most of all, I will miss her.


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