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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outlook (06/02/11)

TITLE: Hope's Last Vigil
By Patricia Protzman
06/09/11


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I backed into my usual parking place and stepped out of the car. The perfume of hyacinths and a robin’s warble accompanied me on my stroll to the English Tudor house that the owners had converted into a nursing home. Inside, one of my favorite residents greeted me from her wheelchair as she had every morning for the last four years.

Mrs. Hope Collins and I had arrived at Manor House on the same day—she as a new resident and I as a charge nurse. “Please call me Hope.” She had requested at our first meeting.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her forties, she was unable to walk. Her husband had died the year before. Hope’s only daughter and her family lived three hundred miles away. She had not returned to visit her mother since placing her at the home and rarely wrote or telephoned.

Most of the time Hope’s positive outlook on life and dependence upon Christ sustained her. However, more than a few times over the years, I had found her sobbing in a corner of her room. When asked what was wrong, she would say, “Oh, I’m just having one of those off days, Shirley.”

With a broad smile, sparkling eyes, and excitement in her voice she followed me to the door of the staff lounge and said, “I have something to show you when you come out, Shirley. It’s a big surprise.”

“Okay, Hope. I’ll just be a minute.”

I clocked in, placed my jacket and lunch in my locker, and washed my hands.

“Well, you certainly have sparked my curiosity Hope. What’s the big surprise?”

“Read this.” She said handing me a sheet of paper.

Dear Mom,

We will arrive Sunday afternoon to celebrate your 85th birthday. I’m looking forward to seeing you.

Love,

Susan


“Wow, what a great birthday present Hope.” I said handing her back the letter.

“Yes, but what am I going to wear? “

“I’ll take you shopping and buy you something new.” I replied.

Hope and I shopped at the local mall on Friday after my shift ended. We laughed at some of the styles and avoided those that showed too much cleavage and leg.

“I don’t want to dress like an old woman but neither do I want to dress like that, either.” She chuckled pointing to a dress with a middle of the thigh hemline.

Finally, after two stores, Hope found the perfect outfit and shoes, a robin’s egg blue a-line dress with a short sleeve jacket and white, low-heeled sandals.

“I like the color of the dress, it matches your eyes.” I commented.

“Yes and the shoes match my hair color.” She giggled.

We stopped into a local restaurant and had dinner before I dropped her off at the home.

“Have a wonderful birthday and enjoy your visit with your family, Hope.” I said as we hugged. “I’m off this weekend so I won’t see you until Monday.”

“Thanks for buying the dress and shoes, see you Monday. . .” Her voice trailed off as the nursing assistant pushed her wheelchair down the hall.

Dear Lord, please let her daughter show up. I silently prayed as I walked to my car.

On Monday morning Hope was nowhere in sight. My heart raced as I rushed to the nurses’ station. The night nurse put down the phone and said she had bad news. Hope had died a few minutes ago.

She had just spoken to the daughter who said she had meant to call yesterday evening to tell her mother that she had to delay their trip because of her husband’s work, but decided to put it off until this morning. Could we pack up her belongings and give them to the Salvation Army?

Furious, I wondered how a daughter could be so cold-hearted.

I walked into Hope’s room and pulled aside the curtain. She still wore her new dress.

Hot tears fell onto the cool sheet as I lifted her gnarled, wrinkle hand and whimpered, “Hope I know you are with Jesus and will never be disappointed again. Rest in peace my friend. I love you.”

Wiping away my tears, I shuffled out of the room, and closed the door.

*****

Based on a true story. During my thirty years of nursing experience, I laughed, cried, and prayed with scores of lonely seniors like Hope.

"Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth." Psalms 71:9 KJV


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This article has been read 277 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Fitzpatrick06/09/11
Wiping my tears I found hits to be such a sad story but after reading that this is a true piece my heart even broke more. I lost my mom 2 yrs ago due to complications, after she had a severe stroke.I helped care for her while she was in the hospital for 3 weeks and then while she lived out her days in the nursing home. Every day I would go up there, often 2 or 3 times because I just wanted to spend as much time with her as I could. Some of the staff were nice but there was a few nurses and other people who were accostic and had lost heart I think because they weren't very kind and warm. It broke my heart when my precious momma passed away but I am so glad that she did know the Lord.
Thank you for being one of those "kind and loving" nurses who goes our of their way to make others feel loved and taken care of. You surely will be rewarded in heaven if not before! Hugs. Amazing story-just beautiful-Well done!!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/09/11
This broke my heart, I too was A nurse and was often baffled by family interactions.When are we going to give the elderly the respect that they so deserve?
Linda Goergen06/10/11
Oh wow, I too am sitting here with tears in my eyes. My heart heavy with sorrow that the “real” Hope had to experience this. Just reading this angers me, because of my dad’s recent stay in a nursing home due to a stroke, I know how much those visits from family meant. Like Janice with her mom, I visited my dad often, for hours at a time. But I know there were many that did not get those visits. All the sacrifices parents make for their children and then, so many left alone, if the children have to sacrifice. Sad!

I can say my dad had wonderful caretakers in the home, and like Janice, I feel they are earth’s angels that do that kind of work, that is so often heart wrenching!

This was so well written, just a masterpiece of emotion and illustration of different outlooks.

Applause not only on this work but for your years of sacrifice nursing the needy, with love, understanding and compassion!
Leola Ogle 06/12/11
This also touched me deeply and brought tears to my eyes. We put mom in a nursing home a month ago, but fortunately she has had lots of visits, I go 2-3 times a week. It is very hard because she cries when I leave. But the staff are so wonderful! Thanks for sharing! God bless!
Sarah Elisabeth 06/14/11
I've seen this story often on visits to the nursing home over the years with my 4-H club and then my church. One of the saddest things I experienced was when a nurse guided us away from one of the rooms. The woman was about to die at any moment. The room was empty; no family or friends there in her last moments of life.

Such a sad tale, but kudos to people like you who brighten their lives! Good job on telling this story.
Noel Mitaxa 06/14/11
Beautifully written and so movingly expressed. I hope you rate highly with this.
Edmond Ng 06/15/11
A tribute to the ones like Hope. This is a very well expressed and sad story. Reading this brought to mind two verses.

Even to your old age I [God] will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you. (Isaiah 46:4 NAS)

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 NAS)

Colin Swann06/15/11
This is so sad. Very poignant, the fact stories like this existed in your nursing experience. Thanks for sharing.
Rachel Phelps06/15/11
As a pastor's kid, I've been to countless nursing homes with countless Hopes. This still breaks my heart. Excellent writing and what a great idea for this topic!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/17/11
Congratulations for placing 8th in advanced and 24 overall!