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