There was a woman with dementia, pretty bad dementia, and a bum knee. She couldn’t follow commands to get her sitting at the edge of her bed. It took about 10 minutes. It was one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen. Even though she was able to speak, her words made little sense, and she comprehended almost nothing. I handed her a deodorant, and she put it in her mouth and sucked it. She didn’t know what it was for. She wasn’t able to give me much information on her life, past or present.
Other than the knee, she had the cleanest medical history you’ve ever seen. No heart disease. No diabetes. No stroke. Not even high blood pressure.
I worked with her and she gradually started to make progress. After working a ton of extra hours for two weeks, I took a 3 days off. When I returned, I discovered (to my surprise) that she had passed away.
I was so surprised, and asked my boss (whose religious beliefs I don’t know) what had happened.
“It was really strange. Some of her friends visited the day after New Years. It turns out that her husband was a pastor and the visitors were church members at the church they pastored. After they left, she kept saying “I can’t wait to go and serve my Lord again! I can’t wait to serve my Lord.” She kept repeating it all afternoon.”
“She went to bed that night. They checked on her in the morning and she was sleeping. They checked on her an hour or two later and found that she had passed peacefully in her sleep.”
As I look back on my time in nursing homes, this stands out as one of the most powerful moments. God used that patient to testify to me (and my co-workers). “I am faithful to the very end. There is purpose in every life until the very end. I put her there to show you that. I still see and love every person that you care for with dementia, and my love is so strong that the person who can’t remember her own name remembers me. Her heart for serving is what pleased me. I can use the things and people most people don’t see any use for. All breathing things have purpose, and Ms. S was to show you that I am faithful even through circumstances that don’t make sense”
I can’t help but think sometimes about the way Ms. S served God in a nursing home. Christ in her shone through in a wonderful way, despite her suffering. I can’t help but imagine the utter joy she must be feeling now, restored and seated in the presence of God.
All because she chose (in that moment and her whole life) to let her suffering be an opportunity to serve.