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TITLE: I Call Her Blessed
By Glenn A. Hascall

Open heart surgery left her weak. Diabetes took her eyesight, leg and stomach. A lengthy hospital stay left her poor in spirit. Our family almost lost her in recent months, but God had other plans.

Mom told us that she would rather die than be placed in a nursing home, yet the doctors ultimately made that tough decision for her. My family became very concerned for her long term health.

When I last visited her, Mom was sitting in her wheelchair as roommate Antonia slept with her television parked on a foreign language station occasionally waking to giggle then she would promptly fall back to sleep. Mom told me that she’s been Antonia’s roommate longer than anyone and she’s committed to staying with her despite her idiosyncrasies.

I found it hard to keep up with numerous stories about other women in the nursing home that she has befriended.

Vera is the only Native American in the nursing home. Residents have speculated that she must have burned her throat and can no longer speak. Mom thought differently. Since befriending her, Mom has been invited into Vera’s room and was shown a wondrous star quilt she recently finished. Privately, Vera will talk to mom while others continue believing that she is a mute.

Alice is another resident who could only seem to say, “Nine, nine, nine.” This was her response to everyone - and everything. Mom admits this was especially annoying to her, so she prayed about it. It seemed there was something she was supposed to do. The next time Alice answered with her standard, “Nine, nine, nine.” Mom passed nearly sightless eyes in her direction, smiled and said, “Alice, I think it’s time you try out some other numbers, how about nine, one, one?”

Alice stopped and looked toward Mom and began to giggle - the ice was broken. Now Alice talks to Mom everyday. The nines are no longer making themselves a predominant part of her speech.

Mom then told me there was a lady named Marsha that I should meet. It seems Marsha is a writer and would love to have a book published. She’s fifty-five and has problems with her spine, so she gets around in a wheel chair and requires nursing care. I was told Marsha often speaks of my writings and has mentioned to mom that she’d love to meet me.

I wheeled Mom down the hall and she knocked on Marsha’s door. An unusually slurred voice invited us in. We pushed the door open and Marsha wheeled herself over to us making lots of noises and strange facial expressions. I suddenly realized that Marsha had Cerebral Palsy. She had to work so hard to speak, but her smile and personality were clearly evident and I was quickly at ease with Mom’s newest friend. Mom even cracked a few simple jokes about starting a band of nursing home cheerleaders that made Marsha laugh as she told me how funny my mom was.

A unique typewriter sits on Marsha’s desk. She explained that many years ago her high school teacher had asked her if she really wanted to learn how to type. When she said yes, he came up with a way for her to express herself in words. Taking a thick piece of glass he strategically bore holes in it to correspond with the keys on her keyboard. He then managed to find a way to affixed the contraption to her typewriter. She holds a plastic equivalent of a dowel and inserts it into the holes as she presses the keys. Marsha discovered that this unique typewriter became the best way to take the unique wisdom God had given her and pass it along to others. Her work is featured in the small town newspaper where she lives, and it is used in weekly Bible studies in the nursing home.

The ability to draw people out of their shell was demonstrated early in my life when Mom befriended Hazel who had a flare for the dramatic. I suppose that if Hazel had grown up in today’s culture she most likely would have been confined to a psychiatric ward. You see, in order to gain attention, Hazel would cut herself and call neighbors claiming that a man had broken into her home and had hurt her. What Hazel really needed was someone to listen to her, and Mom became that person.

Mom would fuss over a pot of tea and treat Hazel as if she were royalty. Hazel eventually opened up and shared some of the hurts and struggles that led to her self-mutilation.

My family has had a rich history of reaching out to others in times of need and I’ve been able to watch that up close and personal in the life of my mom one recent Saturday afternoon when the leaves were falling and spirit defied gravity. For a few nearly forgotten ones - those who also find themselves poor in spirit - Mom has shown the love of her Savior in tangible and needed ways. The time is long past due for me to rise up and call her blessed.
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