Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Cycle of Life

I pulled the chair over and sat beside her bed. Her eyes fluttered, her head moved and she looked at me, but not sure she really saw me. I took her hand, rubbed her forehead and she finally responded. "Don't do that!" she commanded. "I'm sorry," I said, "Did that hurt?" She looked at me again and this time she saw me.

She tried to speak, but nothing came out. I started to talk to her then, just about things in general. She grabbed both my hands and held on as for dear life! My eyes filled with tears. Penny, the Activity Director at the nursing home had texted me to say that if I wanted to see Delores before she died that I had better come soon, so here I was.

"For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so flourishes."
Psalm 103:14-15
I first met Delores over 6 years ago when my Dad went into the nursing home. I would often see her at Bingo and other activities and we became friends. She was always very interested in what was going on in my life and always had a joke and a compliment for me. She had been a hairdresser, she told me, and had three children, although I never met any of them, never saw any of them there. She had been married and divorced. She was a very sweet lady, but suffered from anxiety and when she was having an "off day" there was nothing that could be said or done to calm her.


I grew to love Delores. We spent many times talking about life. She always wanted to hear about my vacation trips and I would send her post cards from wherever I went. She was interested in my grandchildren, too, and whenever they came with me to see my Dad, we would always stop and talk to her. She always inquired about them. She always complimented my hairstyle and my clothing. She was very observant about those kinds of things. And, oh how she loved having her hair done and her nails polished.

That day I was sitting there with her I told her that Annie and Harriet had said "Hello." She replied, "That was nice of them." She told me I looked nice. As I sat with her, I prayed for God's mercy to take her home quickly and with little suffering. I will truly miss her. She was one of the biggest reasons that I still volunteered at the nursing home and went in regularly to call the Bingo game after my Dad passed away. Used to love to have her sit next to me during Bingo. We shared many laughs. She had a real dry sense of humor and often told me off-color jokes and then would ask my forgiveness and hope that I didn't think less of her for it!

As I sat with her, I thought of the cycle and seasons of life. We're born into this world, grow up and try to live the best we know how. Life deals us all blows that we never expected and we navigate through muddy waters most days. I wonder as I sit here and reflect, will I ever end up in a nursing home like this? If I do, will I have visitors to help pass the long hours of the day? What difference did Delores' life make? What difference does my life make?

Delores wasn't rich or famous, but I know she touched my life and I am blessed that our paths were able to cross for a brief time on this journey of life. There were many, residents and staff alike, who loved Delores, enjoyed her and helped to make this place home for her. Her life did make a difference in the lives of those who knew her.

That same day, in the afternoon, I went to visit a young woman from our church who I've had a mentoring relationship with. She had just had her first child - a daughter - and I was anxious to meet her. As I watched her holding her child and then as I held her myself, I couldn't help but think of Delores again. The two extremes of life I experienced in one day - a newborn, only 3 weeks in this world, and a senior citizen, over 85 years old, ready to make her exit. One just starting their journey and the other about to finish. Who knows what's up ahead for little MacKenzie?

We don't know, neither do our parents, when we're born, what kind of life we will have. It really is so short and I think we waste so much of it on things that don't really matter; I know I do. Some days I feel so saddened by how much time is wasted in my life. It seems so lamentable to me, as I reflect on Delores' life and then my own, that we can't live more in the meaning of the moment; that we can't see and understand how much the moment we're in counts or how our lives can affect other people.

At the end of the day, at the end of a life, all that really matters is that we've loved and been loved. That's what people will remember most, isn't it? Do I truly live like I know I am loved - by the Lord and by others? Do I truly love - the Lord and others the way I know He wants me to? What kind of legacy will I leave?

I went back to the nursing home on Saturday, two days later. The nurse said Delores had been sleeping since Friday. When I went in on Sunday, she was still sleeping. I touched her cheek and kissed her good-bye, told her I loved her.

I will never forget Delores. She was very special to me. God used her to bless my life and for that I am grateful! I'm grateful, too, for the reflecting her dying has caused me to do. A new resolve to endeavor to live to make the moment count, to appreciate those God has put in my life, and to let go of the striving that this world encourages because most often it's striving for the things that are so temporal - material possessions, degrees, position, fame, money - all can seem so necessary at the time and have their place in our lives, but they bring fleeting happiness at best and as they say, you can't take them with you when you go!!

It's good to reflect, but even better when the reflection helps bring lasting change. Help me, Lord!

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