Letter to the staff of the Bethany Nursing Home.

Yesterday I went to a memorial service at the nursing home where my aunt spent the last years of her life. It was a service for all the residents (and one staff member) who died over the past few months, but that didn’t make it impersonal at all for me. I have walked through the Porta Sancta to enter the Basilica of St Peter and it left me cold; this recreation room of a nursing home tucked into a quiet corner of a Chicago suburb felt like my spiritual home. Behind me a woman deep into senility muttered ‘bullshit’ and ‘it’s just talk, talk, talk’ at key moments of the homily; it’s amazing how lucid the heckling of an Alzheimer’s patient can be. An elderly gentleman from the neighborhood came in to sing, and though his voice cracked sometimes, his baritone was richly passionate. A retired minister who was a resident read from Ecclesiastes, one of my favorites. I was moved by the experience. My mother and grandmother wept. I wrote a letter to share with the staff of the nursing home that I am sharing below. Lily, I thought of you because one of the finest people there was activities director, and she made a big difference to my Aunt. And Kenny, I discussed you with the ministers. I’m very proud of my friends.

To the staff of the Bethany Nursing Home.

My Aunt Anna was a resident here for several years, and the care that she received was without question the best possible. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to know that someone so beloved to us was here with you. It simply was impossible for us to provide her with the care that she needed in the last years of her life, but to see her happy here gave us more comfort than we can tell.

My aunt lived a long life that touched many people; I know that all of you must have known what a special soul she had within her. What made her so special was that the compassion she demonstrated to everyone she met was undeniably authentic; even after the terrible disease stripped her of memory and thought the love inside her was unbound. She taught me more in the last years of her life than I learned in any classroom from any professor.

There is an ancient mystical belief that the fate of the world rests on the backs of living saints who are the secret kings and queens of the world. Their unselfish purity humbles God and stays his hand from erasing Creation. Anyone who knew Anna understands that I am not exaggerating when I say that my aunt may have been one of these people.

I imagine that there are days when you feel that your difficult work here is not appreciated or noticed. I want to tell you this is not the case; my family and I are very aware of the sacred work you do here. I am certain Anna is dwelling in Paradise and that she is telling the residents there all about you.

Thank you and may god bless you,

4 Responses to “Letter to the staff of the Bethany Nursing Home.”

  1. That is so beautiful… I have tears in my eyes. I know the recipients of this letter will be touched beyond words.

  2. lazurus/kenny Says:

    Odd how sometimes things pop up right when you need them! You’ll forgive me from recusing myself from the gun discussion. It is difficult to have a discussion with one with whom you so fervently agree. But especially now that Mom is in Hospice, this was wonderful to stumble upon. That is assuming one believes in coincidence. Thanks for this.

  3. Coincidence, fate, faith, & chance are all just words; the truth is what we experience. Though I wish you didn’t need them right now, I’m glad these words provide some comfort. I love you and your family. Take care of each other.

  4. Kenny Lazarus Says:

    agreed.

    We are headed to our family’s favourite vacation place. One we return to almost every year. It is about 2 hours from where my mother was born. It will be a very emotional trip for many of us, since she won’t be with us, but it is a vacation nonetheless and a week spent with some of the most important people in my life. Oh and booze. Lots and lots of booze!

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