"You shall love the Lord, your God,with all your heart,with all your being,with all your strength,and with all your mind,and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27
Looking back to the weekend just past, my time was filled with fun and meaningful events like attending the Rector's Dinner, the largest fund-raiser for St. Francis de Sales Seminary, going to a wine tasting with my husband and his sister, cheering on my daughter at her double-header volleyball games and standing witness with my parish at the Life Chain.
But by far, the highlight of the weekend was a special little trip that my oldest son John and I made on Sunday evening. John and Justin both work at a nearby nursing home in the dietary department. They love to share stories about the people who live there, and our family almost feels as if we know the sweet residents of the nursing home after hearing so many wonderful tales.
One woman, in particular, seems to be the topic of discussion at our home quite a bit. H. lives in the independent apartments that are attached to the nursing home. Poor H. seems to be ready for assisted living as her memory is quite poor and the boys often say that she is poorly cared for, and on top of that, many of the other nursing home residents dislike her and criticize her for her memory loss.
The independents are allowed to come to the dining room for dinner during the week, but on weekends the food served at the nursing home is for the assisted care residents only. (I don't understand that rule, do you?) It seems that on both Saturday and Sunday she came down to the dining room looking for food and the staff had to send her away because it was a weekend. John was especially heartbroken when he came home from work on Sunday afternoon and he told us that once again H. was looking for food, complaining about how hungry she was, but the staff had to send her back to her apartment or they could get in trouble for breaking the rules and feeding her. (Time to change that rule, don't you agree?) John overheard one of the nursing assistant's say that H. didn't have any food in her apartment. H.'s only son lives out of state, so she is all alone with no one to care for her.
On Sundays I always like to make a big family dinner, and since my husband has taken a second job and had to work and my daughter was eating dinner at a friend's house, we had lots of food left over. So, John and I made up a plate of dinner and packed up a bag of groceries and took it to H. at her apartment. John's description of her was quite accurate; she was incredibly sweet but also noticeably forgetful. She recognized John but didn't remember his name. She asked me if I was his girlfriend and when I told her that I was his mom she so kindly told me that I don't look old enough to be his mother. I immediately fell in love with her after that! When I told her my name she mentioned that Anne is her favorite name. Then, five minutes later, she asked "What was your name again?"
When we offered her the dinner, she mentioned that she did eat dinner already so we put the dinner and groceries in her nearly empty refrigerator, said goodbye, and went downstairs for a tour of the kitchen. One of the girls who was doing the dishes told us that H. did come down for dinner once again and she didn't care if she got in trouble or not, she gave H. a bowl of chili. (Good girl!) It did my heart good to know that there were staff members there who would risk getting "in trouble" at work to assure that a hungry 94-year-old woman had some nutritious food in her stomach.
Six blocks from my home a sweet little woman lives all alone in a world that often mistreats her for her mental capacity. During this month dedicated to respecting life I will remember that woman who is only six short blocks from my home. She is my neighbor and I will strive to love her as I love myself.