Saturday, June 28, 2008
Giving half of all you have
Happy occasion that it was, I cried all the way home from the nursing home today. Let me explain...
My Great Aunt, Lillie Turney, lives at Brian Center Nursing Home in Austell, GA. Since most of her family lives far away, I try to visit her every two or three weeks. I have done this for several years now and it seems that each time I go I get acquainted with more of the other residents. It is getting harder and harder to leave as those residents recognize my face and each expects a visit before I go. My heart is pulled from person to person, feeling their loneliness and the need of each one for a personal touch. I sense that they have lived out their lives, yet somehow they have some life left over, so they wait, not remembering the past, not knowing what to do with the present and frightened of the future. Every time I go, it gets sadder for me. I know them by name, especially; Betty, James, Bobby, Katherine, Claire, Susan, Edna, Ethel- May and mostly I've gotten really close to Aunt Lillie. She tries to be happy when I come, she never complains, but I see the sadness in her eyes that she tries to cover up with a, "I sure do appreciate all you do for me.", whether I do anything or not.
Today I went to celebrate her 92nd birthday with her. I came in, just before lunch was served, singing Happy Birthday, with cake, gifts and camera in hand. Look at the above video... Did she know it was her birthday? Did she even know who I was?... I don't know, and I guess it doesn't much matter; what matters is that someone knew it was her birthday and thought it was worth celebrating.
Aunt Lillie acted pleased. We put the candles on the cake together, while others around us waited for their lunch and looked on with envy. She opened up the necklaces I brought her and put all three around her neck at the same time...then the whole point of this blog happened...
I pulled up a chair to the table with Lillie and her table partner, Katherine (Katherine sort of reminds me of Maude, from the TV show). I suggested that they start their lunch and said I would just get a cup of coffee and sit with them, and then we could cut and pass out the cake (I had brought paper plates and plastic forks enough to serve others). A gentleman (who looked very much like Billy Graham) was at the coffee container, so I sat down, waiting for him to finish, before going to get a cup of the luke warm brew. A good five minutes later, he wheeled himself over to our table and offered me a cup of coffee with sugar, sweetener and creamer wadded up in the palm of one hand. I was so touched that I hardly knew what to say, except what a nice thing for him to do for me. He said he had heard that I wanted some coffee and that was the least he could do. Then I asked him his name. When he told me it was Leonard, I couldn't help the tears that popped into my eyes. I told him that was my father's name, I was touched, it was an honor to meet him and my name was Merry. He said he had a daughter named Mary...Well, that wasn't all I found out about Leonard. He was a missionary for many years and later in life became a Baptist preacher. When his lunch came, he slowly went over to his table and brought his plate back to ours. Quietly he sat, while I talked to the ladies and paid some attention to Aunt Lillie. The next thing I knew, Leonard put half of his lunch on a small bread plate and placed it in front of me. Half of his piece of cold baked chicken, half of his half of a baked sweet potato, half of his salt-free green beans, half of his dinner roll and half of his peanutbutter cookie. It was like the widow's mite, the Olivers' generosity, the angels saying, "well done, Merry". It was the sweetest offering of friendship I think I have ever had. That man who seemed to have no future left, touched my life and I will never forget him. It was so befitting that his name is Leonard.
Aunt Lillie wasn't having such a good day. She was having some pretty serious tummy problems. She excused herself and after a few minutes I went to check on her. She didn't feel like coming back to the lunch room, so I told her I would go and serve her cake to anyone that was left and would then bring it back to serve her and her neighbors.
Leonard was gone, so I took him a piece of cake to his room, where I found him reading. He smiled with delight and asked for a hug. It was a hug in Christ.
I will visit this gentle man again and I will pass on what he taught me today. You can make a difference, no matter what your circumstances. Lillie has taught me how to laugh when it's all there is left to do...and Leonard taught me to give half of all I have.
Posted by Family at 6:51 PM