By Carol Gray
I have hated nursing homes ever since I toured one as a girl scout in 1978. It was difficult being an eight-year-old girl walking the hallways, passing rooms of the dying. I wondered, did I actually sign up for this? Did I really bring home a permission slip for this field trip? What was the sales-pitch by the scout master, oh yeah, I would get a patch…those darn patches!
The “Service and Citizenship” patch would be the reward for entertaining the elderly for the day. I remember thinking that most of them did not look at us with sentiment, only desperation; as if they wanted us to help them escape the inevitable.
I took that patch and hid it away in my drawer hoping to forget about the entire experience.
In 2008, some 30 years later, I had to step back into a nursing home for the first time since that terrifying event. My grandmother-in-law was dying. Realizing I may never get to say one last goodbye, I had to enter this place.
I sat in the parking lot breathing deeply with flashes of those Girl Scout memories. It is funny what memories do to the brain because I swear the smell came back to me before I even opened the door to the building.
When my hand reached onto the corroded brass door handle, a miraculous feeling came over me. I had a sense of power. It was as if the anxiety seeped out of me and onto the welcome mat.
I knew this was God, but why?
As I strolled down the hallways, those same hallways showing the dying in just about each room, I felt love. As I saw a man with one leg in a wheel chair in the hallway scooting down the hall with that leg, I felt love.
As I heard a woman screaming because she was in too much pain to move just a centimeter on her side in order to get her shot, I felt love. Not fear, not anxiety and definitely not thinking about getting a patch. I knew this was God. . . again I thought, why? [pullquote]I knew this was God. . . again I thought, why?[/pullquote]
I found grandma. She looked emaciated and tired. Cancer was devouring her, yet she was aware of who I was. I sat down by her side, held her hand, massaging her paper thin skin. With the power that came over me at the front door of the nursing home, I blurted out to her “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
To my surprise she replied, “I can’t, I can’t. . . I have done too many bad things in my life.”
I told her God knows everything you have done, yet He loves you anyway.
I asked again, “Will you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
She said YES, vigorously!
We then prayed together.
I left there with an enormous amount of peace, never wanting to forget this experience. I plan to volunteer my time at nursing homes now.
Only God can take away fears and anxieties turning them into triumph. Wow, what a patch my Scout Master has given me. Except it is not hidden away in some drawer, it is embroidered on my heart.
Grandma died the next day, no doubt hanging out with her personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
Carol Gray resides in Fishers Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is a recent graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University where she went back to get her degree, 20 years after entering the work force. Carol loves to write, is an avid blogger, and is currently working on a Christian children’s book with her 12-year old son.