Mom has been fighting a respiratory bug this week. As I came in the door from work on Tuesday, my brother was calling to say he wouldn’t be surprised if she was taken to the hospital. She looked and sounded to him like she did back in August when pneumonia set in. I came to Culpeper on Wednesday to find her a little stronger. Last night, she told me she had gotten her hair done and walked some, both good signs.
This afternoon, Ralph called again. Fever, delirium, deep cough, pale. By the time I got to Culpeper tonight, Mom was again somewhat better and didn’t remember a thing about earlier in the afternoon.
The conversations that led to me accepting my current role with Virginia United Methodist Homes began almost exactly 2 years ago. The offer and decision didn’t happen until July, 2014. In the 4 months that I thought about and considered the possibility, I struggled with the fact that my then 88-year old mother would never live in a place like our VUMH communities. Maybe I never will either. What I saw was an opportunity for VUMH to become a tremendous resource for all families and especially for our Virginia United Methodist Churches as together we address the needs of aging congregations. Little did I know how our family situation would change in these two short years. I also had no idea how challenging it would be to balance this work role and having Mom in a residential care setting.
I cried my way out of the health care center tonight – walking beside my brother – because of three things. First, my mother and her roommate share a “boyfriend” as they call him. He is an aide that every morning brings them a cup of 7-11 coffee because he knows good coffee makes them happy. They will both tell you the health care center’s coffee is not good, but then my Mom’s choice for many, many years was instant coffee. In the midst of Mom’s coughing, this man came in to tell them he was leaving for the night, grabbed both their hands across the bed, wished them a good rest, and said he’d be there with their coffee in the morning. Both grinned broadly. This man whom I am sure gets paid very little brings a fresh cup of coffee to a 90 and 95 year old each day he works. To them, there could be no greater gift.
Second thing that made my eyes tear up was when Mom looked over to her roommate and said, I’m so glad I found another sister.” Mrs. Lois is the 95 year old, but will do everything she can to help Mom. Tonight, Lois said she knew Mom felt really bad because this was the first day since they had been together that Mom had not brushed her hair or put on her powder and lipstick. She knows Mom well because, if you know Trula, you know she would never be seen without her lipstick! Tomorrow morning when I go over they will be watching Joel Olsteen on TV, while sipping their coffee. A new friendship that means so much to them and to both families – at 90 and 95. God was watching over this match.
But the real reason I cried my way out has to do with the Charge Nurse tonight. Ralph and I were getting ready to leave when she walked in with Mom’s medicine. Mom grabbed her hand and said, “They need to hear you sing.” She made Mom take her medicine first, took both their hands across the bed, sang a worship and praise song, and then immediately offered a prayer for both of them, including for Mom’s cough to ease. She said she has to be prepared to sing every night before she comes into their room. I responded with a thank you and told her that (her singing and prayer) made me cry.
As Ralph and I walked down the hallway, I wiped the tears from my eyes. “You really are crying,” he said.
“Yes, but I seem to cry at everything these days.”
“Well, you get it naturally,” was his response, as he has always seemed to think Mom cried over everything. However, my first memory of her crying in front of him was not long after his return from his service during the Vietnam Conflict. Ralph, Dad, and Mom were taking me to the zoo (since I was only about 5 years old) when Ralph got pulled for speeding. Mom cried in front of the female judge to get him out of the ticket.
I cry because my Mom is loved, sung to, and prayed for in this new place where she finds herself. And I give thanks for the care givers, the medical personnel, and all the staff who care for her. And I cry because of a heartfelt song and prayer offered by one disciple of Jesus as she shares her faith so freely and beautifully.
May I be able to do the same.