“Good morning, Mrs. Abbot! How are you today?” chirped Hope Amherst as she opened the blinds.
“I don’t like my curtains open – it’s too bright! Who are you?”
Hope smiled at the elderly nursing home patient. “I’m Hope Amherst, and it’s nice to meet you. If you’ll let me open your curtains and window, you’ll see the garden and hear the birds.”
“Go see if my breakfast’s ready. And pull that curtain back around my bed.”
“First let’s get you up and into the bathroom, and then I’ll bring your breakfast, okay?”
“I want my breakfast first. If I need to go, I’ll push my call button.”
Somewhat amused, Hope left. By the time she returned with the breakfast tray, she had gotten the scoop on Barbara Abbot. She was eighty, a widow with a grown daughter who lived in town with her husband and children. She suffered from osteoporosis, and about six months ago had fallen and cracked three vertebrae. Even though the surgery, called kyphoplasty, had been successful, Mrs. Abbot remained in her room, refusing to take part in life. Her daughter visited weekly, but had pretty much given up on her mother’s ever leaving Dayspring Nursing Home.
Hope set the tray on the bedside table. “I’ve brought your breakfast. Let’s get you up and into the bathroom. Then you can sit in a chair and eat.” She lowered the bed’s side rail.
“No need. You took so long that now you’ll have to clean me up and change the bed.”
Hope sighed. Mrs. Abbot hadn’t rung for assistance, but she still needed a bath and a complete change of clothing before she could eat. This accomplished, Hope changed the bed while Mrs. Abbot ate. Hope hummed snatches of her favorite Reliant K tunes as she worked; Mrs. Abbot ate in silence and ignored Hope.
The rest of Hope’s first week at Dayspring was the same. Mrs. Abbot stayed to herself, always in the dark, always with her blinds closed. She rarely slept; she ate sparingly; she ignored everyone.
On Saturday, Hope approached Mrs. Abbot’s daughter, Kellianne McDonald. “Mrs. McDonald, my name is Hope Amherst. I’ve been working with your mother this week and wondered if you had time to talk with me.”
“Your name is Hope? I’ve prayed God would bring some hope into Mom’s life, but…” Her voice trailed off.
Hope led Mrs. McDonald into a private room and began, “I’m praying for her, too. What do you think caused her depression?”
“I think it started when Dad died two years ago. They were married fifty-three years. I didn’t notice; but I should have.” She dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “Anyway, about six months ago, she fell. She came here for therapy, and here we are. I’ve about given up.”
“Would it be okay with you if I tried something? My head nurse is fine with my ideas if you are.” Hope outlined her thoughts to Mrs. McDonald, who gave permission. “No guarantees, you understand. Your mother must do her part, but I think God is able.”
The next morning, when Mrs. Abbot demanded her curtains remain shut, Hope opened them anyway. When she demanded the curtains be pulled around her bed, Hope wheeled her over to the window to watch a pair of nesting cardinals. “Look at them, Mrs. Abbot! Aren’t they gorgeous?” Mrs. Abbot grunted and turned away.
Every morning that week followed the same pattern, with one change. On Friday, Mrs. Abbot didn’t grunt and turn away. She began watching with interest, especially when two weeks later, she spied three little, upturned yellow beaks. What a racket they made! Hope even caught her smiling as the parents faithfully filled those beaks with beetles and worms.
One afternoon, when the cardinals were nesting another brood, Hope came in, trailing a leash. Attached to the other end was a massive brown and white dog. “Mrs. Abbot, I brought a friend with me. I think you’ll like her.” Mrs. Abbot nodded, not taking her eyes from the scarlet birds. “Her name is Chloe. She’s a Bernese Mountain dog. She visits hospitals and nursing homes and libraries.”
Chloe marched up to Mrs. Abbot’s wheelchair and gently placed two good-sized paws on her knees. “Well, aren’t you adorable!” Mrs. Abbot chuckled and stroked Chloe’s large brown head. “I think she’s smiling at me!” Neither Mrs. Abbot nor Hope noticed Mrs. McDonald come in until Chloe barked.
“Welcome back, Mom. And thank you, Hope.”
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