There is a saying out there that people who come into your life for a season always do so for a reason. Sometimes the reason is obvious right away, sometimes it takes years to understand. My next couple of posts are dedicated to a small white haired lady named Celia, who I only knew for a season...
In 1988 my military husband was posted to a new city, so we pulled up roots and moved on down the road. I was a stay-at-home mom and with my youngest child heading off to her first year of school, I found myself with time on my hands. Just up the hill from our new house was a large seniors complex (at that time we called them nursing homes) and I decided that since it was so handy, I'd see if they could use a volunteer. I thought maybe I could help them with some of the little events they organized for the residents, you know, birthday parties, sing alongs, bingo nights.
I made an appointment and met with the volunteer coordinator. She told me that they did need volunteers, but that she had something quite different in mind for me than just helping with birthday parties. She explaned that a few days earlier, Social Services had removed an elderly woman from an abusive situation and brought her in for protection. She had been discovered living in squalor in a run down tenament house, battered and bruised from beatings admistered by her husband of 40 years. The woman had no one - no children, no siblings, no family, other than the abusive husband and she was lonely and afraid. Would I consider being her special friend?
This was way outside my comfort level. I hesitated and explained that I thought it was just too much to commit to - not at all what I had been thinking of when I offered my services. The volunteer coordinator sighed, "we really need someone", she said, "someone who's not associated with another resident here and has extra time for a very special person. Would you consider just stopping in to meet her before you make your final decision?" Feeling a little trapped, I reluctantly agreed.
Somewhat apprehensively, I walked into Celia's room. She was a tiny little lady with snow white hair cut just above her shoulders. What struck me right away was the large patch of white gauze taped across her left cheek completely covering her eye. She was dwarfed by the big recliner she sat in, both legs elevated, but the right one wrapped in bandaging. I could see fear and confusion in the one bright eye that assessed me when the volunteer coordinator introduced us. "I don't want to be here," Celia told me in no uncertain terms. I was surprised by the heavy French accent and wondered absently where she was originally from. "When can I go back to Clyde Street?" she demanded.
The volunteer coordinator sat down so she could speak to Celia at eye level and took the older lady's hand. "You have to stay here for a while, Celia. Beverly has come to visit you today, you're not alone" With that, the coordinator stood and left the room, leaving me to sink or swim. Always able to take control of an unconformatable situation and put people at ease, I opened our conversation by commenting on her French accent and asking her where she was from. Celia was hesitant and sometimes combative, but we managed to chat for 15 minutes or so.
The volunteer coordinator was waiting when I came into the hallway. "Well?" she asked.
"Ok," I said, not at all sure why I was doing this, "I'll try it".
To be continued....