by Sylvia Huffnagle
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Blanche pulled her wheelchair up beside Rosie’s, giving Rosie a big smile as she did so. Blanch gently touched her arm and said, “Hi Rosie, how are you this morning?” Rosie yanked her arm away, gave her a dirty look and turned her wheelchair so she didn’t have to see Blanche. This kind of behavior had been going on now for weeks, but Blanche was not giving up. She thought Rosie looked terribly unhappy, and she was determined to win her over. They were seated in a niche off the corridor in the Franklin Rest Home where a replica of a floor model radio was playing old fashioned music.
Blanche stayed put, taking every opportunity to greet people as they went by and to converse with whoever was inclined to do so. Rosie ignored Blanche and most of the people who came by.
It happened that Blanche and Rosie were placed at the same table for meals also. So when they were assembled for the evening meal, Blanche again gave Rosie a big smile and greeted her. Rosie cast her a mean look and then ignored her. After the meal, they both ended up in one of the sitting rooms. Usually the TV was playing, but this particular evening it was off. Blanche smiled at Rosie and tried to start a conversation. Rosie didn’t glare--she didn’t turn away--instead she began to cry. Alarmed, Blanche wheeled her chair closer and dared to try to hug Rosie. “What’s wrong, Rosie? Can I help?”
Rosie dug a tissue out of the pocket of her sweater and dabbed at her eyes. “I’m just so unhappy. I have no one. You are so nice and so well liked. How can you be so friendly and cheerful all the time?”
Blanche loved it when she was asked that question. It gave her the perfect opportunity to tell her story. She started right in. “Well, Rosie, I used to live in a very nice ranch style home in Pennsylvania. My husband for 40 years, Ralph, was a building contractor. We had three children and I was a social worker. I worked with the county helping families adjust to lifestyles that worked. It was very rewarding work. I was privileged to assist down and out people in a number of ways. Ralph was a good man and we had a good life together.
Our blessings mounted over the years. God always seemed to be adding yet another source of joy to our lives. Then one day things started to change--the additions ceased and the subtractions began. The first subtraction was our first born son moving all the way to Texas, taking our first daughter-in-law and our two grandchildren with him.
Next, Ralph’s heath went. He was diagnosed with a form of heart disease that could end his life at any time. Ralph had to retire and we had to quit doing many of the things we enjoyed.
Then our middle child, Dottie, was killed in a car accident before she had a chance to marry and have children. The youngest one married early on, but he never seemed to have much time for Ralph and me.
Five years ago, Ralph passed away and the next year my health went. First I developed sugar diabetes and soon after that it was high blood pressure. They just couldn’t keep either of them regulated. I ended up in here three years ago.”
Rosie shook her head. “Mine’s been gone for eight years.”
Blanche cast her a sympathizing look, then continued. “I think this home is very nice and the staff is excellent. They even have people specially trained to try to improve our quality of life. Their job is to see that we have opportunities to do different things like crafts, sports activities, enjoy entertainment, and get to socialize and interact with others. Back when I came here, they tried hard to get me to come to the activities, but I was filled with grief and didn’t participate in anything.
After I’d been here about a year, they hired a new girl, Julie, in the activities department. Julie came to my room and invited me to come down to the multi-purpose room to hear a fellow sing hymns. I declined the offer as usual, but she is very sweet and she just wasn’t taking no for an answer. She has a way about her and the next thing I knew, I was being wheeled along the hall and into the big room where a lot of people in wheelchairs were assembled, facing the front.
I sat with the other’s waiting for the nice looking young fellow, who was standing up in the front near the mike to start singing. I really wasn’t the least bit interested and could have cared less if he sang or not, but I wanted this to be over so I could go back to my room and feel sorry for myself. In a little while, he picked up a guitar, sat on a stool in front of the mike and began singing the Old Rugged Cross. He sang beautifully and to my utter surprise my heart was stirred. When the hymn ended and I found myself wishing it hadn’t, I wanted it to go on and on. An awesome hush filled the room. Inside I was crying out for him to sing it again. Feelings that I hadn’t experienced for years were resurrected--so to speak. Oh how I wanted him to sing it again--I actually prayed that he would.
Speaking in his soft, wonderful voice which seemed to emanate compassion and love, the young man said, ‘I think the Lord is impressing me to sing that song again.’
He started singing and something was broken in me, tears began streaming down my face. I prayed with a new humility, a renewed sense of kinship and affection for the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for ignoring him and living without him all those years. I asked him to be my God--for Jesus to be my Lord. Immediately a transformation took place in me--I felt more alive, more loved, and more joyful than I had ever felt before.” Blanche beamed at Rosie. “That was two years ago and the joy has never faded away. Everyday I wake up loving God and glad to be able to serve him here.
I have to get around in a wheelchair. I have to take lots of medicine and I’m only allowed to eat certain foods. I’ve lost my affluence and possessions. My youth, my looks, and my family are gone, but I am happy. I have a ministry, Rosie. I spend each day seeking opportunities to smile at people, encourage them, pray for them, and testify to them. My life is full. God is good.
So you see, Rosie,” she looked pleadingly as her, “I wanted so badly to tell you, hoping you will open your heart to God and ask his Son to shine in your life too. I hate seeing you so unhappy.”
Thoughtfully, Rosie searched Blanche’s glowing face. Her eyes dropped to her lap and after a minute, she said, “I’d like that to happen too. Will you pray with me?”
© Sylvia Huffnagle
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