I spent most of Sunday in a nursing home, vising my aunt. Given the possibilities in that loaded sentence, it was a pretty good day. She moved into a nursing home in the town where she’s lived for about 35 years, so now her longtime neighbors and church friends can stop by a little more often than when she was in the hospital.
And, I wasn’t alone this time, as my good friend, who comments here from time to time under the name Stella Artois, came along. That’s about the biggest understatement I could make about the day. You see, not only did Stella drive there and back but she happens to work as an occupational therapist at a nursing home, so she basically gave my aunt a free consult, as well as allaying my fears about what kind of place this might be.
My aunt is really doing quite well for a 93-year old woman who’s been in the hospital for almost 4 weeks. She’s mainly just weak from lying around all this time. So she was more than willing when Stella offered to help her sit up on the side of the bed — she seemed really really happy to be sitting up. She even stood for a couple of minutes — no small feat given what she’s been through. I think she can see a future of being mobile again, and having that kind of mindset will make all the difference at this point.
Stella and I gave ourselves a tour of the facility, and I was so glad she pointed out many positives about the equipment in use, the ways patients were being treated, the way the staff responded to our requests and those of the patients. If you have to be in a nursing home, this is a really good one, it seems.
But I’m not going to recommend to my aunt that she go to the Sunday afternoon service, despite the fact that she’s a former choir director, longtime member of the local Methodist church, and I know she misses the ritual of going to church every Sunday. But when Stella and I stopped by the dining room, we found find a local preacher delivering a sermon to an audience of residents in wheelchairs. Nice scene, until you listened to his words: “Do not be bitter. Bitterness will stay in your heart. Bitterness if evil. You cannot live with bitterness.” Blah blah blah.
Holy crap. If anyone deserves the right to be bitter, it’s an old person who’s wearing a diaper, slumped over in a wheelchair, unable to reach for the lightswitch or to grab the phone. A person who cannot feed themselves, cannot bathe themselves, and who has basically lost every ounce if independence they ever had. And here’s this tall, strapping young man, thumping his bible and telling them, “Don’t be bitter.”
Look, I don’t recommend being bitter, but if anyone has ever earned the right to be a little bitter, it’s these people. So they don’t need a lecture loaded with guilt for having a natural human reaction to their current state of affairs. They need a little compassion, a little understanding. So instead of listening to a totally irrelevant and unhelpful sermon from the “professional Christian,” I think I’ll recommend instead that my aunt spend some time with the local hairdresser, who donates her time to do hair at the nursing home. That’s the true Christian act here ….