I dreaded going in. I stopped just outside the entrance of the nursing home and wondered if I could actually enter.
My preconceived opinion of nursing homes was a major stumbling block. It’s not that I had ever been in one before; it was the stories I’d heard, all negative, I’m sorry to say. I still feel a bit of shame that I almost let those feelings stand in the way of receiving one of my life’s greatest lessons about gratitude, and the happiness that goes with it.
An elderly friend from my church had recently become a resident at this particular nursing home. This man and his wife were wonderful mentors to my husband and me. He’d been a well-known chef and decoy carver, his wife a talented seamstress. They both were outgoing and friendly, often inviting us to their home for brunch. Their invitations always included our two young daughters and we all enjoyed our visits. How could I not visit him and let him know that he was missed by us? This wasn’t about me.
I finally went inside and as I walked down the hall, I thought I heard one of my favorite cartoon characters, Elmer Fudd, singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” As I turned around to look, I saw that it wasn’t Elmer Fudd at all. It was a sweet looking woman with white hair, sitting in a wheel chair. She was happily singing away. Her voice was hoarse with age yet she had that song in perfect tune.
She wheeled over to me and in just a few minutes I learned many things about this woman. She was from the town of Comfort, N.C., and her name was Flora. She thought she was 88 years old but wasn’t absolutely sure. She moved into the nursing home with her husband several years before. When he died, she stayed on and thought she might just stay there until it was her time to “go.”
Miss Flora had two sisters but no children. Her favorite supper was soup and light bread. She and her husband had farmed for a living and she remembered that she didn’t like picking cotton as a young girl but had to anyway.
Her preacher used to come and see her but didn’t anymore. “He must be busy, that’s why,” she said.
Miss Flora loved singing hymns and visiting with other residents. They were her “family” now. I actually enjoyed meeting Miss Flora and talking with her. As I left her to find my friend’s room, she told me that she would keep me in her prayers. At this point I had tears in my eyes.
That night I thought about the many things I had always taken for granted.
I often complained about having to drag myself out of bed every day to go to work. Miss Flora didn’t like picking cotton but she “did it anyway.”
I sometimes didn’t like what we were having for dinner while others were happy with very simple meals.
Sometimes friends or members of my family upset me but I am thankful to have them. Some people do not.
I realized that I had formed an opinion about nursing homes based on what others had told me, instead of learning about them myself. After a few visits I could form my own opinion based on personal experience. Yes, there was some “unpleasantness,” there. But there was also contentment and joy. I met caring staff members and visitors. I learned that nursing homes fill a great need. Where would Miss Flora be without “her family?”
I didn’t know when I’d become so self-centered but after finding Miss Flora, I was determined to become more grateful for all the blessings in my life, both great and small. I wanted to be less judgmental and more aware … less selfish and more giving … less grumpy and more cheerful. I wanted to try putting fear and prejudice aside and go walking through unfamiliar doors. I didn’t want to be too “busy” to care about others.
I didn’t change my ways overnight by any means, but I am getting there. I have learned that being thankful makes for having a much happier day.
Thank you, Miss Flora!
Carol Hartsoe is an author who lives in Bear Creek. This article was published in Sasee Magazine.