Today’s post in the Choosing to be Open to Life series comes from Ana, who blogs over at Time Flies When You’re Having Babies. She offers a beautiful and important message about being open to life that she learned in a nursing home.
Last spring Mike came to me with the idea of our family beginning to visit a nursing home on the weekends, focusing on one resident if we could. I should say that he pestered me, because I don’t remember being up for it and I know he came to me more than once and he did ALL the leg work to make it happen. In my mind the equation went something like: 3 tiny people under 5 + very pregnant lady + bunch of old people = bad, BAD combo.
I was stressed about the idea of getting us all rounded up every week to go and about the idea of keeping all three girls happy while we tried to entertain an elderly person. What would we talk about? What THE HECK will the girls do while we try to talk? What will all the people in the nursing home say when they see us traipse in to try to be charitable, would they even think that bringing all those kids every week is anything close to charitable? I could only think not.
I went over and over the various comments we were sure to get from lots of curmudgeonly old folk who were sure to be annoyed at the toddler who can’t stand still (Lucy) or the preschooler who tends to stare (Bernadette) or the kindergartener who talks too loudly and shares her whole life story with you if you make eye contact (Naomi). They would hate us! I was sure of it. So I was not hot on the idea.
Mike did a ton of work and got us matched with a lady name Phyllis and we were set to visit her every Saturday at 10 a.m. I was even less hot on the idea of getting everyone ready every week and out the door in time, as if Sundays weren’t hard enough. I definitely let my complaints be heard as much as possible, but I conceded so as to not seem like a totally horrible person and we have been going ever since.
Obviously Mike and I are not closed to new life- 4 kids in 5 years is a good track record for proof. We don’t use contraception or any other sterilization methods, and we never will. If we feel like we need to postpone pregnancies for a length of time, we use Natural Family Planning and pray for God’s Will to be done. However, I realized that my resistance to visit the elderly people at the home- who are just as much people as the babies we’ve made- was fairly closed to those lives. It was going to be inconvenient, it was going to interrupt the normal that I knew, it was going to be physically hard on me and possibly emotionally hard on everyone (sound like reasons people have for not having more kids?) I am not trying to equate the two entirely, that is not possible, I am just making a small comparison. I was expecting to be inconvenienced, expecting to feel awkward. I was bitter about all the work I had to do to get us there. I was sure this would not be worth it.
After 5 months of going, my expectations have been blown out of the water. Every single week that we go, we are greeted with nothing but excitement that we are there. The girls know the names of many different residents and while we enjoy the one-on-one time with Phyllis, it is absolutely the case that the new life we bring to the nursing home is a constant blessing to those old lives.
One woman named Verda finds us every time we go now since we’ve had Joseph- she loves him. Phyllis told us that she hadn’t talked to anyone in months and when we started coming with tiny baby Joseph, she would not only come over and sit next to us, she asked to hold Joseph and talked and talked to him, and to us and the girls. Phylis was shocked.
We recently started seeing and talking with an man named Casper. He can’t hear very well and it is very difficult to understand him, but one day while we were coloring at a table with Phylis, he rolled over in his wheelchair and sat with us with a huge smile on his face. While we were sitting there he told Phylis that he had only had one daughter, and that she had died. He told her that seeing our little girls made him so happy, while he told her he had tears in his eyes. We try to sit with, or at least go see, Casper every week now.
The whole experience has been incredibly uplifting, and surprisingly so for me. I was ready to feel like our openness to life was unwelcome there, but it is at the nursing home that I feel the most comfortable. We have gotten countless comments from workers and residents about how beautiful our family is and how much they love that we come. I was worried about how the girls would interact and if they would feel too uncomfortable, but if anything I have learned from them how to greet each person with equal joy and a welcoming spirit. They have no expectations at all and they are just themselves, which is exactly what everyone seems to love the most.
In the end I have learned more about the preciousness of every life, in a deeper way than I knew it before. I have seen that openness to those people who are at the end of their lives is vital. Most of all I am extremely grateful that God is using our own openness to new life in our family to bless and bring renewed joy to the people we have encountered at the nursing home. Every time we leave Phylis gives each girl a huge hug and tells them each “I love you”, and Joseph as many kisses as she can squeeze in, then tells him she loves him too.
Every ounce of work it takes to get there is entirely worth it and life is truly beautiful.
For more beautiful thoughts from Ana, be sure to stop by her blog, Time Flies When Your Having Babies.
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