You remember having one of those horrible days when nothing went the way it was supposed to? The coffee spilled on your last clean shirt and then the car wouldn't start. Or you got that awful phone call just as you were leaving for work but there was no time to process it. You had to quickly assume that plastic face and pretend you were on top of the world. You had a job to do and there's no way around it. The usual pep talk you recite didn't work this time. That's how my workday started. In fact, the entire week had been like that.
Feeling physically and emotionally drained, I knew I had 20 residents to take care of and they all needed their morning medicine in the next few hours. I think I plowed along on auto-pilot for the first hour. Then it was time to enter Ms. Nester's room. Even on a good day, this was unpleasant. Her strong body and shrill voice belied the late-stage dementia her mind was suffering from. In general, it mattered how calmly you approached a resident and how soothing your voice was. Not so with Ms. Nester. When anyone crossed her line of sight, she began to scream loudly and gesture wildly. Usually she spat, bit, scratched or slapped at anyone within arm's reach. Inevitably, before you left her room she cried. Not softly, but in a sputtering, woeful screech that hurt your ears and heart to hear. Maybe once in a blue moon she would cooperate with a caregiver. She did not carry on conversations, but rather seemed to exist in her own world where everything was disjointed. I don't think I had ever heard her form a complete sentence.
Knowing her as I did, if you told me what I'm about to tell you, I would not believe it. Forgive me for being brutally frank, but that's the truth. Holding my breath, I knocked on her door. I was greeted with the sweet sound of silence. Tentatively, I pushed the door open.
Sometimes miracles come because we've prayed for them. Sometimes they are much-anticipated and long-awaited. And sometimes, they catch us completely by surprise. Ms. Nester was smiling--no, she was laughing as she reached for me with both arms. Then she patted her heart and literally sang, "I heard somebody and I kept looking and there I saw YOU! Oh you look so good. I'm so happy to see you, come over here!" I was tempted to look behind me. Was she talking to someone else? No, her eyes were definitely focused on me! Dare I get within arms' reach? This was my best opportunity to administer her medication, if the mood lasted long enough. To my amazement, she happily accepted my offering, then reached out to gently hold my hand. Her exuberant salutation continued. "Oh, you look so good. Thank you, Lord. I'm so glad to see you, come sit down."
Was she looking at me but seeing someone else? I was not about to burst her bubble. "Oh, I just feel so happy! Praise the Lord; He is so good to me." Her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. Sitting by her bedside, wondering if I should pinch myself, I assured her that I was so happy to see her, too. Then as she quieted, I patted her hand gently until she slowly let go of mine. She gazed at me happily as I closed the door. Never had I seen her so calm and rational. Never before and never since was she glowing and ecstatic. Not once had she calmly let me leave the room, as she did that day.Somehow I felt as if tender arms had hugged me. Tears filled my eyes, and I asked, "God, what just happened?" He replied softly, "I did that. That's my love for you that you've seen here today. I used her to show my love for you." A passage from the book of Zephaniah rang in my mind. "For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice greatly over you by singing a happy song" (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT).