Other than the sound of televisions and red lights buzzing above doorways to alert nurses, the hallways were silent. A few stragglers in wheelchairs awkwardly push themselves up and down and up and down, simply to escape the four tiny walls which make up the only home they know. One or two sit on benches–having endless conversations with the air. And another precious one rocks endlessly on a wooden rocking chair to self-soothe. This is their reality.
In the quiet of the night, I heard her. I made my way down the hallway to find where the sound was coming from. I opened her door to find her there—sitting in the corner of her room, hunched over, tears streaming down her delicate, time-worn face. I rushed over to help, not quite knowing what to do…other than love.
“Are you okay,” I asked (choking back tears myself). “I need to get to the bathroom, but I can’t get up. My legs hurt too much and my body won’t move,” she managed to say through her tears.
Ever so slowly, together we made our way to the bathrooms across the hallway—one agonizing step at a time. I held onto her frail 97-year-old body with all the gentleness and tenderness I could muster, guiding her every step of the way. Tears continued to pour down her beautiful face as she begged for mercy.
I ached. I felt completely helpless to take the agonizing, crippling pain away from her.
After what felt like forever, we reached the bathroom and my new friend was finally able to get some much needed relief. As I removed her disposable adult diaper and began to clean her up, tears continued to flow down both of our faces. My heart overflowed with thankfulness that I was able to simply love (when I had no idea how to physically care for her many needs).
Through this precious life, in that very moment, God began to break my heart for something which broke His in two. The eyes of my heart began to open to a desperate reality that I never really gave much thought to. The widow who lies alone in a facility all day, every day. The acutely aware lady with Down syndrome locked away in the Alzheimer’s unit of that same facility. The abandoned!
Gently and with absolute caution to not tear her already paper-thin skin, I continued wiping, cleaning and reassuring my tiny little friend that everything was fine and how much I truly loved helping her—how it was a joy to help her feel clean again.
From behind her sobs and pleas for help, she looked into my eyes. “Please, can you do me a favor?”
“Absolutely! Anything,” I said.
“Please can you pray with me that Jesus would take me home soon? I am ready to meet my Savior face-to-face. I am so tired of the constant pain. I am longing to see my husband again.”
My tears flowed freely as I promised to pray.
I never told her that I was a Christian. Never shared my faith. Sometimes no words are necessary. By our fruit they shall know us, the Bible tells us. (Matthew 7:16)
This week has been such a huge eye-opener for me. My heart has shattered into a million pieces as I have spent my evenings helping out at a long-term care facility. I shared on Facebook earlier in the week that I totally get it now. I really do! I get why the Lord put “widow” and “orphan” together in one passage of Scripture (James 1:27). I get why He commanded us to care for them both.
Both the orphan and the widow (many of them like children themselves) understand something that few of our hearts can fathom…abandonment. They know what it feels like to be left behind.
Sometimes I get so focused on the orphan and doing everything I possibly can to help them that I forget. I forget about the dear souls who live so near to me and who would love nothing more than a visit. I learned this week about the many, many who never, ever get one single visitor. Some have family members who live in other states, others have family who just could not be bothered, and then there are some who have outlived every single family member and will die alone. My sweet friend last night told me that she has outlived her siblings, her husband and his siblings, and even her own children. She has not one single person in the world who can visit her. Can you imagine? I simply cannot fathom living in the same tiny, dreary room for twelve long years and not having a single visitor. I too would be begging the Father to take me home.
I felt convicted, friends. Convicted that I so comfortably live in my four walls and so easily forget about the lost and the desperately lonely. Are we not commanded to visit the widow and the orphan? Some translations say to “care for” and to “look after.” While at the nursing home this week, I counted. I counted the number of visitors who came to visit the residents on the floor I was on. ONE! One person came the entire week.
I am guilty. Some days I feel so desperate when I read about all the heartache in the world and wish that we could take our family back out on the mission field. We miss those days. I wish that we could serve the Lord with all our hearts in some faraway land and make a profound difference—like just being anywhere but here will make me feel like I’m doing it, you know?
This week I needed a healthy dose of perspective, and I sure did get it. Yes, faraway lands need the body of Christ to come and share the Good News with them…but so do those who are locked up in long-term care facilities (or are stuck at home and unable to go out, or just plain hurting) right here on our doorstep. We don’t even need to travel five miles away to make a profound difference in the life of another human being. And let me tell you, they are so, so desperate for someone to come. I saw it with my own two eyes this week.
I get so tired of living in my little bubble. I go to church and get filled right up to overflowing each and every Sunday…and forget to pour it back out for the sake of someone who needs it. I am called (commanded!) to BE the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth. I am called to DO the hard things, love when I don’t feel like it, give freely, and live sacrificially.
I am guilty of not fulfilling the greatest command Jesus gave us. I am tired of my petty excuses. Jesus said to love my neighbor…when I feel like it, and when I don’t, when I’m too tired to think about taking on one more burden, when I’m consumed with worry and concern over all the things going wrong in my own life, and when I feel like I’m running on empty and simply cannot give one more little piece of myself…”Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.”
I fail. I get so caught up in my here and now existence. I forget that the reality of my concerns and my problems is that they truly are not all that bad…because just down the street is someone else who is in a far worse situation than I am in.
Thank you, my beautiful new friend, for ministering to my heart and for showing me, once again, what truly matters in this life.
I pray that I never forget!