The Hospice bedside vigil calls return with surprising charm, a thing I am learning to cherish, experiencing each one with expectation of something unexpected and delightful to occur. Arriving at the elegant nursing home in Shaker Heights, I realized I forgot the book ‘A Calling’ by Abbot William. The vigil would be over four hours so I felt I would conclude with spiritual reading. I accepted the mistake, discerning God wanted me to remain in prayer throughout my visit. Sitting with the patient, it was obvious time was going to be demanding. The poor ninety-two year old African-American woman snored and struggled for breath at such a high volume it was obvious it was not going to be a vigil of calm and peace. Less than two hours into the visit, talking and praying with my sleeping like a bear unresponsive patient, the room’s door opened and in walked an extremely stylish and sophisticated elderly attractive woman. It was the patient’s niece, Anita, a woman who would startle with conversation and companionship. She sported a Channel hat, fine outfit, and a stunning purse of remarkable quality and appearance. Her make-up was perfect. As I absorbed her precious visual cultured image, I grasped a remarkable woman sat down next to me. We would talk the next two hours about her aunt, life, and travel. I understood God was nurturing and caring for me. I learned Anita’s aunt married, yet divorced never having children. She lived vicariously through the lives of her only sister’s children. Anita handled her aunt’s affairs over the last ten years as she suffered from Alzheimer’s. Her mother and her older sister by ten years were inseparable throughout life. Her aunt would do things with the family, always accompanying them to events. Alzheimer’s plagued both sides of her family as her father was terribly affected by the disease. Her aunt supported and assisted the family as her father declined. She loved her father and it broke her heart because he fought the disease, becoming combative and violent. He was always a loving and caring father and husband, however once the disease took course he became a changed man. He rejected the fact he had a problem, refusing to seek professional help, arguing with his wife, blaming her for nagging him, becoming jealous, imagining she was having affairs. He only remained reasonable and calm when Anita and her sister were with him for he would also become combative with his wife’s sister who was only trying to help. He kept getting into automobile accidents so they were forced to take his keys from him. Being stripped of driving was a thing he could not abide so he countered with an attack. When he was alone with his wife, he struck her in the head with a bottle, opening a serious wound. Anita came to tears during the telling of the dramatic assault. It broke her heart to know her father conducted such a violent act. He was never a violent man. She kept insisting that it was not him, it was the disease. She also told me of her four brothers who all died young in their forties from alcohol abuse. She despised alcohol and the fact it also changed her brothers who loved and protected her for she was the baby of the family. She could only remember her brothers as the charming and handsome boys who filled her childhood with delight. The suffering and mistakes they made as grown men was not who they really were. Then during the end of our conversation, not really sure what led me there, I talked about God, forgiveness, mercy, forgiving others, cleansing our hearts of all the wrongs we have committed and the wrongs committed to us. My own words soothed me, startling me with their depth. Anita sat quiet and still, listening to all my words, appearing as a beautiful angel with perfect lipstick and an exquisite outfit. I parted, after speaking and saying goodbye to her aunt, with a compliment on her purse, commenting that I perceived she was a very good shopper. She took pleasure in the observation, remarking with a smile that she was a shopper of class and taste, admitting it was a bit of a vice to enjoy shopping as much as she did.
Anita’s favorite singer and song.