Out of the Fishbowl and into the Aquarium
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Winter’s chill has begun, I can see that now. Crisp autumn leaves are still swirling in the air, trying to dodge sleety pellets, just as I am in my final days on earth. Most of them fail, however, as the frozen rain changes into fine snowflakes, splatting against their colorful dresses like paintball missiles. I watch from my lone window and sit here, aching and miserable, and try to make sense of this new season in my life.
I am a stranger in this new environment, a stranger in a crowded room. I am dressed today, but I feel naked, exposed, and confused in the midst of the bustling activity and the endless intrusions surrounding me.
Lord knows, I have tried to accept the situation. But I feel like I am slowly failing, an exhausted dog-paddling swimmer trying not to drown. I know that God has not abandoned me here. Yet, my former joy in living has given way to dull compliance, and the resulting numbness threatens to engulf me, like stormy cloud-shades pulling down over the sun; the sun that I watch from my lone window.
My morose thoughts are interrupted by another trespasser, a fellow uninvited resident who frequently creeps into my room. I try to ignore her. Like her, I am free to come and go around the residence, but, like a prisoner under house arrest, I am continually watched. And, if I want to step outdoors to view my lone window scenery up close, I have to ask permission. Sometimes, after a particularly trying day of nurses’ poking, prodding and constant checks of my well-being, I feel like a bug under a microscope.
“Privacy!” I want to scream, “Just leave me alone already!”
I have tried keeping my door closed all the time, but an unfamiliar claustrophobia has taken over my usual free spirit and I panic in the stifling, confined air. So, I watch from my lone window with the door open.
One morning last week, an old friend “popped by.” I was still in my nightgown as I sat on the edge of my rumpled and soiled bed linens, eating my breakfast. Ordinarily, I enjoy company, but unannounced visits just accentuate my inability to control my existence.
A social worker has suggested I write my inner thoughts down, as if journaling will ease my unrest. ‘Dear Diary,’ as if this inanimate object is an imaginary friend. I am not longer thirteen, thank you very much. A medical assistant confirms that my days are numbered. Nurse Glenda hovers with her charts and laptop, like Paparazzi documenting my journey.
“I expected hot meals and a space of my own and a place to lay my weary head,” I complain to my soul, “I didn’t count on prying eyes everywhere!”
I just want to look out my lone window in peace, where I can daydream to my heart’s content. Days of long ago entice me there, into their pages of memory, and help pass the dwindling time away.
“Why does it take so long to die, Lord? I am SO ready to be gone from here.”
My reverie is shattered by another resident’s cane crashing on the shiny linoleum floor outside my open door.
“Help me—help me—help me,” he chants and when no bustling nurse’s aide responds, I reluctantly arise to answer his plea.
“Here you go, Mr. George,” I say.
“Thank ya—thank ya—thank ya,” he singsongs, shuffling away.
But then, amazingly, he turns around and flashes me a charming 21-year old’s smile on his ancient face, as if to reward me for this simple act of kindness. I smile back in spite of myself and feel young again for an instant, a debutante responding to a request for the next dance . . .
Now I begin to look for other opportunities to serve. After all, I’m not bedridden like several others. I can still walk. I can push Mrs. Evelyn’s chair into the dining room. I can fetch a tissue for Miss Emma. I can free a tangled wheelchair for Mr. Zeb. I can listen. I can care about someone besides myself.
My lone window doesn’t call me as often these days. I’m too busy to feel sorry for myself. I am thankful for God’s grace as I minister to those around me, to bloom where I have been planted. Surprisingly, perhaps God isn’t done with me yet.
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Death is so final for those who don't know Jesus. I work in aged care and have attended the funerals of many of my past residents. The funerals of those who have known Jesus during their lives are much more positive. You have written well, putting yourself in the shoes of the dying patient.
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