She knocked gently on the door to the room where strange, unintelligible sounds came from a crib-like bed pushed up against the wall. It was the result of her nursing assistant training, this knocking, even though she knew that she wouldn’t get an appropriate, “come in.”
The sun shone warmly through the windows, caressing the floor in front of the bed. Her nose caught the smell of excrement before she saw the bed’s tiny occupant — bone thin, her only clothes a diaper, half torn off, legs bent, contracted and stiff. Her body lay in an “S” shape with just her arms and hands free to flail around. It was obvious that she had sometimes been able to make her hands work. Dark smudge marks on the sheet and walls proved that; as did the smelly dark material that was under her fingernails and on her belly. A bath was in order. And a bath is what the teenage girl in the striped uniform had come to give.
Laying down her stack of towels, bed linen and toiletries, she remembered tales she had heard from more experienced coworkers.
“Better watch out for that old crow. She scratches and bites. And if she draws blood, better disinfect it immediately. Smears her fecal matter like it’s finger paint. So gross. That’s one we all try to avoid. Despicable!”
Small, beady eyes stared up at her as she approached the bed. “Yaoww!” A guttural howl emerged from a toothless mouth. “Yaoww!”
Turning to the sink, she filled a basin with warm water and started to hum a hymn that she remembered from a childhood of hymn singing. The howls stopped. Sudsy water and soft wash cloths soon cleaned up the mess. The “old crow’s” beady eyes never left her face. Needing to change the sheets, she clumsily turned the thin body, but the wizened head twisted around so that eyes never left her face.
Her music seemed to mesmerize her helpless, fragile patient.
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” As she worked, memories of her mother lit her mind. How momma loved this song. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.”
Finishing that song, she gently sang another of her mother’s favorites: “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” The eyes from the emaciated body followed her every move. The toothless mouth closed slightly and a soft sort of sound escaped the dry lips. Covering the twisted body with a clean gown, she secured its ties behind the thin neck.
“Do you like to sing?” She smiled into the wrinkled face.
There was a nod. The mouth opened wider. The off-key sound grew louder. Instantly she knew what this bundle of humanity needed.
“It might seem crazy,” she muttered as she grabbed a soft blanket. “The nurses won’t understand, but . . . .” Wrapping the blanket around the worthless body, she lifted it with her capable arms and carried it, like a baby, to a rocking chair in the corner.
While the sunshine made warm puddles of light on the floor, they sat, nestled comfortably, and rocked and sang. Above the regular, “Cer-reek, cer-reek” of the rocker, her young, clear voice mingled with the rasping, old croaking one.
“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound . . . . I once was lost but now am found . . . .”
“When peace like a river attended my way . . . . Whatever my loss thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”
How sad, thought the girl. Our soul still needs hope and peace no matter what age does to our bodies. She felt the woman relax, almost snuggle down into her lap. Just because she is old and incapable of doing what her younger body did, she still longs for love and a caring touch. Her soul still needs to be well and to be found. God knows who she is and where she has been and all that her life has held. And He has given me this moment to reassure her of His love. What an honor this is.
It seemed appropriate to sing her childhood favorite: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but He is strong.” This too is a weak little one! And Jesus loves her too!
She looked down to watch as beady eyes closed on the upturned wrinkled face. The toothless mouth still moved, though soundlessly now. Carefully she carried the little one and placed her in her clean bed. Then she tucked soft blankets around twisted legs.
Contributed by and co-written with JerryAnn Berry, April 20, 2014
“Listen to me . . . [you] who have been borne by Me from before your birth, carried from the womb and even to your old age I am (S)He; and even to gray hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will save.” Isaiah 46:4
Do you have an experience where you knew God was like a mother, carrying you? Please shine the light of that experience to brighten our lives.
To hear more of a God who, like this young aide, embraces humble servant love follow this link.