It hurts pretty bad to walk into a nursing home and you look into the faces of folks that are waiting to die. The abandon and boredom that are plastered upon their lips is tremendous. It is like looking into a mirror and seeing a reflection you are not to certain it is you. I went to visit a congregant that is in a nursing home yesterday and saw hurt in buckets.
I walked into the front lobby, where there where 10 seniors sitting there in various wheeled chairs. They all stared into oblivion or towards the doors. They could not flee as the door had a code and the nurses manning the station watched. I walked past them and into the smell of death and facieses.
I continued down the hall towards my visit. I walk past a woman in a wheelchair trying to go somewhere. Past more blank stares, perhaps praying that someone will visit them. I hear a weak small voice calling for help. “HeLp, hElP, HELP”, she cried. I looked through her door and she was in bed looking at the ceiling crying for help. I wondered what I could do. Then I saw a nurse enter the room. I passed on. She still cried out.
I went past more weathered faces with sunken eyes. They wanted humanity. They wanted to be reminded that they were still human and the lives they have lead to this point holds value still. If Jesus was roaming the halls among these folks I did not see it. I was too busy and focused on my visit and my discomfort to notice.
I arrive at the room I am to visit in. I go in. She is not there. I call out her name. No answer. I leave and do not ask anyone where she might be. I am beyond unnerved now. I am about to crash. I am taken back to The Arthur K. Snyder apartments in Los Angeles. The senior place my maternal grandmother lived in for many years. The place where my brothers and I were exchanged between parents.
We spent hours there and even days at times. It was filled with disabled individuals that were seniors. Looking back I do not remember many folks outside of my grandmother from there. I know there were others there. I saw them in the common room and in the gardens around the building. There was one man that yelled at me as I entered through the dumpster area to get into the building because my grandmother was asleep and did not answer the buzzer. I felt scared with that.
I remember the smell there to. I filled my grandmother’s room. It filled the common room and the halls as well. It was the same smell that I got yesterday in that nursing home in Seminole. It scares me. It is a part of human existence that many of us would like to forget and pretend it did not exist. It is the choice of family and who to include in it. It is putting our elders out on an iceberg and setting them adrift to make room for a new generation. It is a reminder that we are only useful to a point. It is death and finitude…the kind of finitude that questions your worth and value. The one that proclaims for humanity or smashes it against the prison of our minds.
They say smells are the strongest and most clear memories one can have of time. I walked out of the nursing home. I practically ran. I would have ran but I was trembling inside and did not want to faint. I got to the front lobby. I went to exit and could not. The nurses had retreated to the strategic vantage point behind the desk. I went over and got the code to exit. I turned and went towards the key pad.
There impeding my access to freedom where a man and a woman. They were holding hands. She sort of rested her hand on top of his and he guarded her hand with his soul. They looked at me as I approached. Their eyes reminded me that they too had life yet. I saw a glorious light cover them. They were blanketed with a heavenly glow. I felt my heart speak, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son…” I forgot he smell in that moment and I noticed Jesus roaming the halls.
I typed in the code as I excused myself for invading their moment. With barley a glance at me they looked at each other and smiled in a way I have never witnessed. I did not matter. They were there in this world together. Hold hands and locking eyes to encourage and strengthen each other in a world that proclaims they have no value worthy of escape from those halls.
I wanted to say thank yo to they. I did not. I stepped outside and into the hot humid afternoon. I took a deep breath and got into Nana Puddin’. I started the engine and set her in reverse and drove past the two big doors of the front. I looked as I past the entrance. Jesus was waving to me and mouthed the words, “come back soon. I love you.”