Category Archives: Service

Ellen

Every time I go to visit Ellen, it is like walking into a small Catholic oasis in the middle of the convalescent hospital. She has been there a while, and has collected many things, but the first thing you notice when you walk into her room is Catholic radio lightly playing in the background. I usually come around three, so it is usually the soft chanting of the rosary.

She is a light to all everyone there, and has almost become the matron of the facility. Many of the patients either do not have their full mental faculties anymore, or have reached such depression that they simply do not care to engage anyone at all. It makes me sad to be one of the few visitors to our forgotten elders, but I am always gladdened by their smiles and exceptional courage.

Ellen is usually in the recreation room when I get there, playing bingo, (She is always leaning over the table, helping everyone else find their numbers so intensely that she forgets to check her own) making cookies, playing cards, you name it. She keeps herself pretty busy.

If I can tell she is having a good time, I like to sneak in and let her continue. I know if she sees me, she’ll stop right away and rush off, deep with concern that she might inconvenience me by taking to long getting her wheelchair down the hall. Eventually she will see me and the girls, and away we go.

We bring all the Catholic patients into her room for our little service because it is simply the most welcoming place in the hospital. We have our little communion service while everyone tries to stay awake, but Ellen is eager. She is still learning the new responses and is always excited at the chance to use them. She hates being disconnected, but she really cannot safely leave.

After the service, my daughters slowly wheel everyone back to their rooms or where ever they want to go while I stay with Ellen to talk for a little. My favorite part of the visit is always the list.

The list is an epic adventure we go through every visit. All week long as she is reading the bible, listening to the radio and reading her devotionals, she comes up with questions and writes them on the list. “Why is Melchizedek so important? What is a signal grace? What does Jesus mean when he says you have to hate your father and mother?” They are not easy questions, and she wants real answers. It’s like my own little theology test every week.

Our prayers are most often the same, as she has deep concerns for her family. She really wants one of her granddaughters to become a nun, she prays that another will find her way back to the Church. She forgives the family that haven’t called in years.

She knows my wife’s name though she has never been able to come, so she can pray for our whole family. She remembered gifts for my children for Christmas. She asks for pamphlets and rosaries to help other folks in the hospital.

By the time I leave, she has had so much excitement that she needs to lie down and put back on her oxygen mask to take a nap.

Death at the Senior Center

I have a group I meet with every week to bring them communion and to spend some time with in prayer. It is a small group of about ten people, though it is rare for everyone to remember to come. Considering how bad my memory is now, I expect I won’t remember to come at all when I live there.

They are a very close group of people, and they share much of their lives together. They play bingo together, eat together, read the same books, and frequent each others apartments. My daughters come with me when we visit, and we always stay longer then we intend to. They are simply a fun group of people.

I love them all dearly, they all bring a magical quality to our gatherings. We have one who is the key organizer, calling everyone to remind them to come, we have one who always brings a little something to read aloud to everyone that is spiritually edifying. We have an old man who can’t hear much, but is doing everything he can to be engaged and present to everyone there, nodding approval, and the woman who always brings a letter she got in the mail from some charity showing the suffering in the wold to remind us to pray for them.

Francis (name changed) always brought her smile.

She was just plain cheery, all the time. A sweet, delicate woman, her husband was not Catholic, so this was her opportunity to spend some time with those who shared her faith, and she rarely missed a service. She would talk often about her son, though she had not seen him for several years.

When I found out she had passed away, my heart fell, not for her death, but for our loss. She was faithful to the end, and never gave up hope for her husband, her family, her friends. She loved God so dearly, and we all knew it through her joy filled life.

Her husband had her cremated before we even found out she had passed away, and he didn’t feel a service was needed, so we decided to have one of our own.

I brought a few extra hosts that day, because I knew everyone would show up, and show up they did. We had more people for her memorial then we ever have had for any service before. Everyone was full of joy, and we talked about her for at least an hour among ourselves before we even thought of starting our prayer.

After our communion service, I asked if anyone would like to pray the rosary with me. Normally, in any Catholic group I am involved with, my mention of the rosary is followed by a long drawn out ugggggh. Not today, not with this group. Most of them had brought their rosaries just in case, and I had brought a few for people who did not have one with them. I still had a pile in front of me when we started.

Now I have to admit something. I really don’t like leading the rosary. I lead so much prayer now, and the rosary is so feminine a prayer, that I am partial to hearing it lead by a woman. Personal preference mind you, I just like it that way.

The slow melodic voices of these woman leading us was just so beautiful. It was not overdone, nor was it rushed through. It took just as long as it was supposed to, and it just felt right.

God bless you Francis, I miss you, we miss you, and I pray that the Lord bring you into his peace.

Convalescent Home Adventures

Every Monday I have the pleasure of visiting Joan. Now let me start by saying I have spoken with Joan’s daughter at length, and she is very glad that I come to visit Joan once a week to bring her Communion. Not to say that Joan isn’t glad, quite the opposite. She is ecstatic to see me every week. The only trouble is one of identity.

Yes, Joan has full fledged dementia. So every week, I am someone else. And most weeks, I am several people in the same conversation.
One week I was there, they were having a social event. Every time they have a recreational opportunity for the residents, they give them some fake money, and this was their chance to spend it. While far less dangerous than Black Friday, this was still some very serious business. Haggling is a lost art form, we should all attend these events to brush up on our skills.
Joan however was not all that engaged, as she had fallen asleep in the hallway with her wad of cash. Joan was rolling in the dough, with a stack of bills that would have been the envy of all the other participants had they seen her, but in her quiet corner, she had been mostly forgotten.
“Good morning Joan!” is usually all I really ever get in, and this was no exception. It took me a good five minutes to realize I was her nephew today, as it didn’t really dawn on me until she was giving me money to help with my rent. I of course let her know how deeply I appreciated the help, took the cash, and when she wasn’t paying attention, slipped it back into her lap.
She went on to tell me about all sorts of things, no more than one sentence devoted to each topic, a bit about her new baby, some silly thing her husband did this morning, (he died here in one of the bathrooms, and she can often be found trying to get in there to talk to him in the middle of the night) about her aunt pulling her hair, all sorts of great, very short stories. Then she noticed the money in her lap, and proceeded to give me some money for rent, since I am having such a hard time.
This played out four or five times till I realized I needed to get to my other friends, and needed to get her Communion. So after praying with her, (while she tells me how to cook artichokes) I finally lift up the host.
It never fails. She stops talking immediately, and just stares, until she receives it on the tongue, as she always has, making the sign of the cross.
It is a golden moment of clarity for her, and you see it every single time. It is also a golden moment of clarity for me.
Ah, but it only lasts but a moment, and with the host still in her mouth, she begins again, offering me some money to help with the rent.
God bless Joan. 
Lord, I don’t really need my mind, as long as I always know who You are.
(of course her name isn’t really Joan)