While walking into the nursing home to write with Father last week, I thought of the first time I came and visited him. How difficult it was to face the reality of end-of-life care. Those first times, all I could see was myself in the future confined to a wheelchair, a walker or lying in my room, forgotten. I would beeline down the hall to his room, hastily meeting the eyes of the residents that searched my face with quiet desperation. Fear of the future has been the worst part of having MS and here I had to confront it. Slowly, Father helped me see the the beauty of having to depend on others.
As Father and I became better friends he has asked me to do things, basic care, that we take completely for granted. To preface, I am am rather averse to bodily fluids, smells, sights, sounds....you name it. Despite being the mother of many children, affection is a struggle for me. Father has helped me stretch and grow in what my natural tendencies are. The first time he asked me to wash his face, "Just scrub it real good and get everything off my lips," I was afraid of hurting him and slightly repulsed. But, I scrubbed, and scrubbed it well! "You are obviously a Mom," he said.
Then, there was the time he had me clip his nails.
"Heaven help me," I thought, "What if one shoots off and hits me in the face?"
But, none did and he was happy with the end results.
There has been the eating episodes with him. He has slowly lost the ability to even feed himself with a struggle. So, I feed him. I am terrified of his choking and dying right there in front of me...what kind of crime could I be charged with? And heaven help me if he accidentally bit my finger.
The small things we take for granted, he often has to ask for assistance with. "Please hold my hand to my face. I just want to be able to scratch my own darn face!" Imagine sitting there all day, unable to scratch an itch. Or when he is unable to cough effectively, hanging over his sink, hoping to expel something from his chest as he coughs weakly. "Just pound on my back." And so I thump away.
How fortunate we are, our health is precious. But there is a beauty in relying on others. If we truly believe that we are the Body of Christ, shouldn't the arm (me) be willing to hold the hand (Father Stu) with love and dignity as though it is its own? Shouldn't I want to kneel beside a lady in a wheelchair and shout out a story for her now that her hearing is nearly gone? Shouldn't my children be exposed to beauty in life in all its stages?
Now, every time I walk into his care center, I am surrounded by the Face of God. Not that I still don't feel fear at the thought of a wheelchair in my future, but with the help of the entire Body it would be okay, maybe not pleasant, but another opportunity to grow.
Thank you, Father, for being part of my life!