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Father Ralph Vendegna S.O.S.M.A.

By The Light of a Nursing-Home Window

  • Don't forget about Loved Ones in Nursing Homes. They need Love Also.

     

    December 4, 2018

    By the Light of a Nursing-Home Window

    Maura Roan McKeegan

    The first time I met Ginny, she was lying in bed. Her hands and feet were curled from muscular dystrophy, and she rarely left her bed in the nursing home where my young children and I sometimes visited residents.

    Being bedridden would frustrate almost anyone, but Ginny endured it peacefully. Right next to her bed was a big window that filled her side of the room with light. On the windowsill sat several tall stacks of books. Ginny alternately read the books and looked out the window to the street below.

    At first, we talked about the books. Then, as my children and I began to visit Ginny more often, she told us stories about her childhood, her family, and the neighborhood where she grew up. She had many happy memories; yet, as far as I could understand it, her relatives lived far away and rarely, if ever, visited. When too many weeks passed between our visits, she wondered where we had been for so long.

    One day, Ginny told us that the nursing home was going to be closed, and the residents would be moved to a brand-new facility. I was relieved. This nursing home was in very bad shape, old and decrepit, and I was glad the residents would get a new home.

     

    But Ginny wasn’t glad.

    “I want my window,” she told me. She was afraid that she would not have a bedside window like this one in the new nursing home. She had lived by that window’s light for 12 years, and she wasn’t ready to let it go. I hoped she would discover that this new home would be a better place.

    In the New Room

    Months later, my children and I went to visit Ginny in the new nursing home. As we walked through the doors, we saw that this facility was spacious and sparkling, with dozens more staff and far more light than the last place. We stopped at the nurses’ station and got directions to Ginny’s room.

    When we came to her door, we saw Ginny lying in bed. She looked different—as if she were a shadow of herself. Ginny’s bed was against the wall on the near side of the room. A barricade separated her side from her roommate’s side. The only window was on her roommate’s side.

    Far from the window’s natural light, Ginny seemed like a wilting flower. Her stacks of books were gone. The light in her eyes had dimmed.

    But she was still gracious, and happy to see us. We sat for a while and talked about her memories. She told us about some of the celebrations her family and neighbors used to have growing up. She reminisced about how wonderful the food was back then.

    By what must have been divine inspiration, I asked her what food she would most want to have, if she could have anything at all.

    “Banana cream pie,” she answered, without hesitation.

    I went home and started looking through recipes for banana cream pie. Christmas was coming soon, and I wanted Ginny to have something to lift her spirits. I had never made (nor eaten) a banana cream pie before, and I’m no great chef, so it must have been with angelic assistance that it turned out surprisingly well.

    Two days before Christmas, my husband, children, and I brought the pie to the nursing home. On the way to Ginny’s room, we stopped at the nurses’ station to make sure she had no dietary restrictions and that it would be all right for her to have the pie.

    “She doesn’t eat,” they told me. “Anything. We have to feed her through a tube because she won’t eat. But you can try. Maybe she’ll take a bite.”

    When we walked into her room with the pie, the joy on Ginny’s face made it worth every effort. We wanted her to feel loved at Christmas time, and our hopes were answered—but we also gave her a gift that we never expected.

    “Tomorrow is my birthday,” Ginny told us with a smile.

    All that time, I’d had no idea that I had been baking a birthday dessert. I didn’t know her birthday was on Christmas Eve. Only a divine hand could have orchestrated that kind of coincidence.

    We all sat in her room that night and ate banana cream pie together. Ginny had the biggest piece, and she ate every last bite. We didn’t know it then, but Ginny wouldn’t live to see another birthday. She died a few months later.

    A Greater Home

    Looking back, I am filled with awe and gratitude to God for allowing our family to play a role in making sure that Ginny had a party and her favorite dessert for her last birthday on earth. He took our small offering and multiplied it to give His beloved daughter, Ginny, a far better gift than I ever dreamed.

    “Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” says James 1:17.

    That banana cream pie wasn’t from me; I was only an instrument. I believe it was a gift that God gave to Ginny, to remind her that he had not forgotten her. That her life was worthy of celebration. And more, I believe it was a sign of a promise—a hint of the sweetness of greater gifts to come.

    Although the light from her window was taken, and she was lying in shadows in this new nursing home, a greater home awaited her yet. The light that shone through her big bedside window for 12 years was a small glimmer of the radiance that flows from the Father of lights, in His house with many rooms, where He prepares a place for those who love Him. A place with no shadows due to change.

    I pray that the peace Ginny received by the light of her nursing-home window has found its eternal source. May she rest in that peace, in the place where no pane of glass will separate her from the Light that brings her home forever.

    Tagged as: charity, Christmas Eve

     
     
    Maura Roan McKeegan

    By Maura Roan McKeegan

    Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a series of children's picture books about biblical typology, including: The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus, and, most recently, Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost (Emmaus Road Publishing; available spring 2018). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Catholic Digest, The Civilized Reader, Franciscan Way, Guideposts, and Lay Witness.

2 comments
  • Larry Makinson and HOLLY G like this
  • HOLLY  G
    HOLLY G you see padre, this makes me crazy. the nurses here were not doing their job. it is relatively easy to ask a patient what the problem is. a move to another room with a window would have probably solved a multitude of problems. and the ones who visited her...  more
  • Father Ralph Vendegna S.O.S.M.A.
    Father Ralph Vendegna S.O.S.M.A. Holly, I agree. Make the patient as comfortable as possible. Not make them unhappy and miserable, and make their life shortened for no reason. I am glad Mom never had to go to a nursing home. I would not be happy with that decision. But, if I could not ph...  more