Monday, June 8, 2020

She waited and I never came

Preface . . .
Over ten years ago, I was accepted into a local university nursing program.  I volunteered at a rest home, and even though the nurses treated me terribly, often making me and the other volunteers cry, I stayed, hoping to learn.

When ninety-year-old Rose talked, the past came alive.  She’d met her best friends and later her husband at extravagant dances and parties.  She’d been quite a prankster, witty, rich; I saw it in her sparkling blue eyes.  In her picture, sitting on the tiny dresser, Rose looked like a movie star.  Yet now she sat in a stained chair, and wore faded clothes.  She frequently felt too cold despite warming weather, or the crocheted scarf she wore every day.

I spent my breaks with Rose because she was something special.  On my last day, I asked her why no one came to see her.  “They’re all gone,” she said.  “The older generation has passed on.  The younger ones are too busy.  And it seems as if I’m the only one left.”  Her shaky hand picked up the picture of herself, still stationed on her dresser.  She used her precious scarf to wipe dust off the glass.  It felt strange seeing her wrinkled hand next to what she’d looked like decades before.

“It’s your last day?” she asked, and I nodded.  “Promise you’ll come back.  I get so lonely.”
“I promise.” I hugged her thin frame close to myself.  “I’ll be back when I can.  Things are busy at home with my kids, but we’ll make time. We’ll all come to see you.”

Rose opened the top dresser drawer and gently handed me something wrapped in tissue paper.

“For me?” I asked, trying to be careful with the gift.

“I’ve been working on it since the day I met you.  I hope you’ll like it.”

I slowly took off the tissue paper, revealing the most beautiful jewelry box.  Rose had crocheted it, using some type of stiff material to keep everything together.  “It’s amazing!  I’ll never forget this.”  I hugged her again, and then went out the door to finish my shift.

At the end of that day, I went to the nurses’ station to grab the jewelry box, my coat and keys.  “What’s that in your hand?” a short, brown-haired nurse asked.

“It’s a jewelry box. From Rose,” I said, wondering if that nurse’s picture is in the dictionary--under the word bitterness.

“Ya know, Elisa . . .,” she said, digging her fingernails into my arm before I could leave.  “I never figured you’d be one of them.”

“One of who?”

“Those volunteers who take advantage of old people.”
I gasped.  “I would  never–”

“Yet, you have.  Does Rose have much in this life?”

“Well, no.”

“And you’ve taken something from her?”

I thought hard.  “But she made it for--”

“And you took it from her.  Didn’t you?”

“Yes.” That was all I could say.

“Elisa, you took something from a woman who doesn’t have anything. YOU are a terrible person. I’m ashamed any teacher would recommend you as a volunteer.”

Tears came to my eyes.  That stupid nurse glared up at me, finally smiling.  That sickening red lipstick practically symbolized her craving for discord.  That’s all I could focus on as she spoke slowly, her lips moving over bleached teeth.
“I’m glad you’re done volunteering. And I hope you’ll never come back. We don’t need users like you.”

I hated myself. My own skin crawled with heat and embarrassment.  I clutched the jewelry box closer, knowing even then that I would never see Rose again.  Not because I didn’t adore her, but because I was too scared to face that nurse.

A couple of years after this, I decided to go see Rose and tell her how sorry I was.
But...she. Was. Gone.

I learned something that day: I should have gone back to visit my dear friend.  That friendship would have been a blessing to both of our lives.  But instead I listened to a cynical nurse.

Life’s not worth living for other people, especially if we compromise our convictions just because of fear.  

Today, I keep thinking about Rose, waiting and waiting for me to come back. I once heard that if God gives us “a mission” that we pass by, He’ll give it to someone else.  I hope this is true, that a wonderful soul started visiting Rose--and I hope they stood up to that nurse.

Moral: We should never let judgement or fear deter us from doing what is right.

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