We waited patiently for more than 20 minutes for the bus to return from a day trip around Scottsboro. The day room was fairly quiet, except the television that was playing re-runs of Judge Mathis. Some of the other patients in the nursing home were dozing, or watching, or talking to us as if we were regular residents. The room was stuffy; I suppose all nursing homes use the same cleaning (or non-cleaning) supplies. The smell was both familiar and unsettling.
When the bus returned, the patients unloaded, and we waited expectantly to see our relative, whose recent stroke has made residence in this home a necessity. Aunt Lucy had always been a strong and vibrant lady. An energetic golfer with blonde hair, Aunt Lucy was elegant and in charge.
Today, her blonde hair was slightly dishevelled from the trip. She was beautiful, even in a bulky wheelchair. The stroke left her with some memory loss, as well as emotionally delicate. As she was wheeled over to our table, she began to recognize us. Beverly, a cousin, wheeled her to our table. Aunt Lucy recognized her, and immediately began to cry. Aunt Lucy does not understand why God would do this to her- she has always been a good Christian woman, has always loved God, and she just can’t understand why God hates her so much that He would take her life away and leave her like this. My experience following God confirms to me that God does not hate her.
Aunt Winnie told her that she had some visitors, and she seemed to become more agitated, until she recognized us. Even through the fog of lost memory and emotional strain, somewhere in her mind, she remembered- my stepmom, me, and my son Andrew, who accompanied us on the trip. She stood up- to hug my neck first, then Andrew, then my sweet step-mother Mrs. Jean (she was “Mrs. Jean” before she married my dad, so, to us, she will always be “Mrs. Jean”).
Standing in front of the chair, she again cried out to God to take her home and not leave her in the shape she is in. We sat her down, and began to talk with her. She was so glad to see us, but couldn’t understand what she did to deserve this. However, the longer she talked, the more difficult it became for her to string words together in a meaningful sentence. She also had trouble with gender, referring to me as both “he” and “she” within seconds of one another. But through the confusion, I did hear her say that it was good of us to come all this way to visit her.
Following a few more minutes of conversation, we wheeled her from the day room towards her semi-private room. Down the hall and past the nurses’ stations, she would introduce me as “her boy who played piano” and Andrew as “the beautiful child that belonged to her” (meaning me).
It was a bittersweet walk through the lobby and through the double doors going outside. I hadn’t seen Aunt Lucy for 5 or 6 years, and now that I live 700 miles away, I am not sure when I will see her again. Aunt Lucy and Aunt Winnie are special people; my own mother’s favorite sisters. But I know that as long as there is a breath in her lungs, and until the return of Jesus on that final day, there is hope that Aunt Lucy will recuperate. And there is hope that she will master her emotions, and eventually become somewhat self-sufficient, and be able to move back into the house she had just built around the corner from one of Aunt Winnie’s girls.
And that she and Aunt Lucy will continue to drag up and down the mountains of northeast Alabama, leaving more good examples for the rest of us to see-
Growing old gracefully.
Fighting and winning against adversity.
Fried potatoes, cornbread, and white beans.