Friday, September 16, 2005

Weekly Word for September 16 - 23, 2005

Weekly Word - September 16, 2005

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; . . . Perplexed, but not despairing; . . . Persecuted, but not forsaken; . . . Struck down, but not destroyed;
(2 Corinthians 4: 8 & 9)

The pictures on the television showed the faces. They were the faces of those who had lost everything. They were the eyes of despair. So many had lost so much. Their homes, their neighborhoods, their cities and towns - all were destroyed. So many lives were torn apart - as they searched for what to do. So many lives were lost, just washed away by the winds and waters. It was hard to watch the news, and not wonder at the desolation and destruction that happens in life - to simple, everyday people. As the faces and images went across the screen - a memory came back. It was from a time many, many years ago. Now, so many years later, I can’t remember her name. But I remember her face - - - and those haunting eyes . . .

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen - are temporal, but the things which are not seen - are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4: 18)

I was only about 18 years old, and I had just started working at a nursing home. It was a small nursing home, and I had been hired to work 2nd shift and week-ends. I was hired as a nurses aide, and my job mostly consisted of taking the residents their suppers and helping them to get ready for bed. My mother was a nurse at the home, and I thought I wanted to go into nursing too. But as I took the job - I really wasn’t sure about it.

Driving up to the home, it looked like a beautiful southern Victorian house. It was painted white, and had a huge wrap-around porch in front. The yard was beautiful, with a large green lawn and well kept gardens and shrubbery. It wasn’t until later on, that I learned that one of the men who lived at the home, kept up the gardens and shrubs. It really was a beautiful home, as you drove up the driveway. And then you went inside, and the smells immediately hit you! It smelled like a nursing home. It smelled of medicine, and disinfectant, and in certain places - like urine. As I first started to work there, my stomach was always in knots. I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this kind of work.

So as I started my training, my nerves made it almost impossible for me to see the “residents”. That was the name that they used for the people who I would be taking care of. They were mostly older people from the local area, and 90% of them were women. They were mostly Polish, and had been wives, mothers, and grandmothers. Most were now widows, and after years of working hard - on farms and in factories, through a depression and world wars - they were now here - to live out there lives. So as I started my training, these ladies had to put up with my mistakes and awkwardness. They patiently told me where to find things, and what to do - as I tried to take care of them!

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not.
(Isaiah 35: 3 &4)

As I started to learn a little about the home, and the people who lived there, I started to make friends with these ladies. My job was to take care of the women who lived down one hallway of the home. I would hear about the few men who also lived there, but it wasn’t my job to care for them. Walking into the house, I would hear the ladies talking among themselves, mostly in Polish. The women who were healthy enough, would get dressed each day and then head for the common areas of the house. They would sit and talk together, watching television and working on something they were either knitting or crocheting. These ladies had always worked, and so they continued to do so. I would say hi to them, teasing them a little, before I headed off to hear report. That was when we would find out who might have gotten sicker, who needed more help, and also at times - - - who might have passed away.

At the very end of the hall where I worked, was the room where “she” lived. It was a few months before I was given care of her. I would always hear her, but it wasn’t my job to take care of her. She was one of the most difficult residents living at the home. And so it was with some nervousness that I first entered her room. I had been in there a few times to talk to the nurse on duty, but never to actually take care of her. Like most of the other ladies, she was Polish. But she never spoke English. She spent most days rocking in her chair, her hands curled into fists, as she yelled or moaned all day long. To say she was thin, was an understatement. The bones in her arms and legs showed through her skin, and I was afraid I would break her if I touched her. She was what we called a “feeder”, which meant we had to try to feed her with a spoon. On most days, it was a very difficult process. The girls would end up leaving the room with most of her food still left in the bowl. So I really wasn’t looking forward to the chore.

“Take courage, fear not, Behold, your God will come . . . He will save you.”
(Isaiah 35: 4)

It was my first day taking care of her. As I entered her room, I said hello. I told her my name and that I had her supper. She moaned a little, and I wondered if she had even heard me. I put the tray down on the table next to her chair, and pulled another chair close to her. As I sat down, she seemed to curl away from me, and I wondered about it. So I talked to her a little more, telling her that I had her supper and that it smelled pretty good. Of course I was lying to her, as her dinner always came as some sort of liquid that you really didn’t know what it was! But I told her that anyways, as I put a bib around her. I then got her bowl and a spoon, and tried to find a way to get her to open her mouth. She moaned and whimpered, and seemed afraid. I looked at her, and tried to get her to understand me - hoping that she would eat something. I tried and tried, and she still wouldn’t eat. Most of what I tried to get into her mouth, ran down the front of her. I didn’t know what to do, and so I left - carrying the tray with most of her supper.

That night, after I got most of the other ladies their nightgowns out and their beds turned down - I had to go get her ready for bed. I asked the nurse to help me to get her moved over to her bed. And it took two of us to lift her from her chair, and move her into her bed. We put her nightgown on, and then we laid her down on her pillow. Her legs stayed curled, and so did her arms and hands. The nurse then left me, as I was putting the side up on her bed, and tucking in the covers. And then, for some reason that I still don’t know why, I put my hand on her head and stroked her hair. And that’s when she looked at me, with eyes that seemed so full of fear - so full of terror - eyes that seemed to reach deep into my soul . . .

Give ear to my prayer, O God; And do not hide Thyself from my supplication.
My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death fall upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me; And horror has overwhelmed me.

(Psalm 55: 1, 4 & 5)

As time went on, my fear of working at the home had slipped away. I had grown to care about the ladies who I took care of. I had learned a few words in Polish, and the ladies would laugh as I tried to say them. Each of the ladies seemed to have a story to tell. As I took care of them, I heard about their lives - and the hardships they had lived through. I heard about their husbands and their children, and the loved ones that they had said “goodbye” to. They had lived through a few wars in their lives, and they didn’t talk much about those times. But I always found myself wondering about “her”, and wishing that I knew how to help her. I wondered about her life, and what had caused the terror I saw in her eyes.

Each day that I had to take care of her, I would talk to her. As I fed her, and tried to get her to eat, I found myself just talking about everyday life. I had heard her say a few polish words, so I didn’t think she understood English. But I talked to her anyways. On this day, I told her I was married and I asked her if she had a husband. As I said it, I didn’t expect what happened next. Her hand moved so quickly, as she grabbed my arm. Her grip was so strong, and I didn’t know what to do! I looked into her eyes, hoping I could understand what had happened. She was looking right at me, and the fear had been replaced, with something I didn’t understand. There seemed to be a combination of anger and grief, as she continued to look at me. And then it was gone, and her grip left my arm - and she started to rock, moaning softly to herself. . .

And horror has overwhelmed me. And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”
“Behold, I would wander far away, . . .”
(Psalm 55: 5b, 6, & 7a)

I worked at the nursing home for almost two years. Many of the women who lived there became very special to me. But she got into my heart and soul. I could only find out bits and pieces of what had happened to her. She had been in Poland during the Nazi invasion. She had lost her husband and then her children. But no one seemed to know when or how this had happened. My mind continued to wonder, and then it didn’t matter. All that mattered was to take care of her.

I would brush her hair, and talk softly to her. I never again asked her questions. As time went by, she would eat for me - eating as if she had been starving. I would feed her and continue talking softly. She seemed to answer me, nodding her head at times and opening her mouth. As I got her ready for bed, and tucked her in, I would kiss her on her head. Then one night, I saw a tear. As it rolled down her cheek and onto the pillow, I whispered to her - “It is alright, you are going to be alright . . .”

As for me, I shall call upon God, And the Lord will save me . . . And He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace - from the battle which is against me, . . .
(Psalm 55: 16 - 18)

As I watched the images on the television, the despair and heartache filled the room. And then the memory of her came flooding back. She had lived a life full of pain and heartache of her own. She had lived during a time in history when terrible things had happened. And then she had gotten to the end of her life, and I met her. I didn’t know if I had helped her - during the last years of her life. But I did know that she helped me. She helped me to understand about caring, and about praying for another person. She taught me to open my heart - reaching out to another who was in pain . . .

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not”

Terrible things happen to good people. When they do, we all have a choice to make. We can stay afraid, wishing that these things hadn’t happened, or we can care. We can be the person who opens our hearts, and brings God’s love down here, on earth. But we have to make that choice - to care - and to be the one who says: “It is alright, you are going to be alright . . .” as you bring hope into another’s life. When you do - - - this world is changed - forever . . .

Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold your God will come . . . He will save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened. And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer. And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.
(Isaiah 35: 4 - 6)

Are you willing to care - to feel - to love? Are you willing to change your life - and the lives of so many others - forever? It is my hope that you will say “yes” - to living - to feeling - to loving. It is my hope - that you will say “yes” to the Lord. When you do, this world will be changed forever and ever . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Abiding Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers
For the next few weeks, my good friend David will be updating the Weekly Word for me, as I recover from surgery. He will be posting some of our favorite Weekly Words, so if you have a favorite, please email us and let us know. Thank you all so much for continuing to visit us and share God's Word, as we see Him alive today with each and every one of us. God bless you! Debbie


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