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.

(4) comments

David Collins

Yup , that is where folks go to die . No way to put spin on that . Been to a couple , not willingly but out of respect . Closest thing you will ever come to viewing the future . Senility and dementia are perhaps a gift at this time .

The preacher not visiting , Covid fears or even no longer a tithings paying member ? Been known to happen .

mpjeep

Very nice story, Carol, and very kind of you sharing your time with and story of Miss Flora.

And what is very concerning in our nursing homes, is the fact that over 100,000 folks have died due to Covid-19. Nursing homes have a stigma of flaws in the care that is given to it’s patients anyway.

Many folks no longer have family or friends to visit with them. That may have been the case with Miss Flora and it was so heart warming to read of your conversation with this undoubtedly sweet lady.

My wife has an aunt in a nursing home. She has dementia and rarely knows who she is talking to. We tried to visit her about 4 months ago and were not allowed in due to Covid. Kudos to you for your visit.

JusticeForAll

Reading things like this seems sweet. This time of year, they pop up everywhere. But, I think we would be missing an important notion if we did not take a closer look. There are people on this planet, I am sure Ms. Flora is one of them, that take every day of their lives and try to make other's lives more bearable, more productive, more meaningful, and so on. The look at injustices and try to correct them. They make efforts to make things right. They do not make themselves feel good by an "ah ha" moment and vow to try and do better. They follow the basics what constitutes a well meaning life. What is necessary. Not what is expected or what they deem they are entitled to. They have the ability to appreciate life. Any life. They do not expect life to give them anything. They relish what is given and are thankful everyday. Basics are good enough for most who dwell on this planet, but most of us want the excesses of bounties. And then we justify and glorify that life. And that quest becomes paramount.

That has been one of the hurdles among those who reside on this planet. That selfishness keeps many of us to having the best possible life on this planet. It is not that, as humans, we cannot correct it, it is that it will not correct it, for all the reasons we are human.

You want to do a good thing. Start simple. Volunteer a lot. Not when you have time. Make it a priority.

dc

How we treat the elderly reflect who we are as a nation. NY & others obviously have not been very concerned. The husband of the weather lady on one network lost both his parents there to the virus. One commenter stated NC hasn't been forthcoming with numbers. Little surprised if this story is about a recent visit since my wife was only recently allowed a visit with her mom with special & very strict provisions. Anyone allowed & volunteering to visit is a Godsend since many haven't had a face-to-face visit in months & it's taken a toll.

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