ROOM WITH A VIEW


For brevity, it’s hard to beat George Orwell’s seven-word piece of advice in Politics and the English Language. Orwell says, “Good prose is like a windowpane.”

Green and Sapphire

Green and Sapphire

Speaking of windowpanes, views from our windows, and our thoughts about the views, tell a lot about our lives, and sometimes even about ourselves. We may remember Claire Baker’s limited view those last few years, Grandma Finch’s views from multiple windows, my own cloistered, non-view in India and the views from each of my children’s houses in the USA.  The panoramic is from the sunless, secluded basement to the hard-to-climb-the-stairs, or from the “tree-house” view, to the “front room” view of the cul-de-sac or even the view from the loft. All that plus our spiritual “views” tell about us. The spaces we inhabit have an influence on our mood, our behavior, and even the way we move and interact with others. Everyone needs a room with a view, but especially someone whose life is nearing its end. King David prayed, “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” (Psa. 71:9).

FARMOR (Chloe Jean–1932-)

Through the window I see spring trees, a sea of blooms and soft, sweet perfume; inside there is the smell of institutional laundry, a clatter of trays and nurses voices. Puréed food (glad for it); no salt, no sugar, no freshness, worse than baby food; puréed bread…sickeningly sticky and translucent; every day the same; other residents not alert or coherent; no real relationships or meaningful friendships; nobody seems to need me anymore; feeling forgotten, the worst kind of loneliness; at everyone else’s mercy, and often folks are not merciful.

Nursing Students

I was a nurse too!

The window is all green with sapphire light falling over a black marble sillblack like the coal in the mines of Kentucky where her mother taught school, where her half siblings lived and where a lonely little girl grew up. Waves of thought inundate my brain to wash up nuggets of memory. Nursing school and meeting the Norwegian boy, whose accent I loved.

Norway and the fish and the fjords. There were horses, horses that jumped and fell, taking Tantianna down. Norge og fisken og fjordane … Det var hester, hester som hoppet og falt, tar Tantianna ned.

Boredom and low attention span for any potentially useful or enjoyable pastimes; the only thing that cheers a day is someone else’s smile; inability to speak perhaps the worst of all. My smell is rank; hair itches; can’t wash it. Everyone baby talks me because I can’t talk. They assume I can’t think either, nothing to see, no change of scenery, no vacation from the monotony; feeling useless.

Tobacco sales, lots of tobacco with smoke engulfing the room, the Philippines, entertainment; high society, experimental paper dresses, hand-embroidered blouses wrapping native ladies in luxury. Servants; china dishes; silver trays loaded with food.

Motel in Camden; babies and school days, two babies, joy and sorrow, Action Graphics, printing cards, church bulletin, kind people.

Nursing Home 5

Smell of body odor and urine; stale, recycled air; trapped inside; outside the window—son and grandchildren come with singing and laughter. A cheerful voice—daughter-in-law; institutional smell familiar from working days; lonely; no beryl here, no choices; no stimulation, residents and caretakers unknown. Nurses votary to nursing, but not to religion; see the sweet lady, not my daughter’s face, taking me outside; feeding me, talking about my husband, son and daughter. Stay here; don’t go away. Please stay! Mouth mute, dumb; nose runs, eyes run, someone comes to wash my face. Was in control; hard to switch—like Peter in John 21:18-19. Heaven beckons.

 

Appendix:

Families should visit the nursing homes often to keep the family together and to encourage others who have no family or friends who care.  They should visit often to train their children to be compassionate and to have respect for the elderly.  Teach them to love the unlovable, whose endless, monotonous days are spent without hope.  “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope. O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good” (Job 7:6-7).  Another reason for visiting is to be encouraged by the wisdom of the elderly (Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31).

In one way elderly people are like babies without the cuteness. We must control our negative thoughts of distaste for their smell and lack of bodily function. We must be willing to wipe the spit-up, change the diapers, wash their hair, bathe and carry them where they need to go.  For what would such a one hope? Nothing physical, but for the Christian there is something joyful to anticipate. The elderly are spoken of in Scripture too. King David had a dear friend in Barzillai.

Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man. And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem. And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king? Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? (2 Sam. 19:32-36).

If one is older, what qualities of heart can she develop within her situation to help move through the trials? What good can she still do, what use can her life be to God and His people? Consider Anna, who lived and prayed in the temple night and day (Luke 2:36-37).  Even a paraplegic can still pray for others, whether they know it or not. God sees and hears. Can you show mercy to others? That takes humility and long-suffering to be willing to try. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecc. 12:1).

Be comforted. Ask the Lord to put your tears in a bottle or write them in His book (Psa. 56:7-11). Find hope in the world to come (Heb. 6:5). Observe and rejoice in the work of God (Psa. 19:1-3). Comfort and admonish those who come (Heb. 10:24). Let them find joy in visiting your bedside.

13 thoughts on “ROOM WITH A VIEW

  1. A fairly healthy and active member of our congregation was recently diagnosed with multiple inoperable brain tumors, and was given the news that she has a very short time left. When asked how she was felt about it, she replied, “Well, I really am disappointed. I had so much I still wanted to DO.” I relayed that to another dear member, and she gasped with great feeling, “Oh, I SO understand what she means. ME TOO!.” The first lady is 91, and the second is 84. Are we ourselves guilty of judging differently, based on age? Have you ever inquired about someone’s health, and then remarked, “OH!” when you hear their age, as if illness is somehow “no big deal” after retirement? Maybe we ought to consider how we ourselves would feel in those same circumstances, and cultivate more compassion and less prejudice. Yes, God has made us so that our bodies break down with age, but it doesn’t FEEL any less meaningful to hear you are going to die at age 80 than it does at age 30. Advanced age doesn’t remove pain receptors or make illness any less traumatic. Even with the best of intentions, it seems that any of us can be “judges of evil thoughts” based on more than just wealth, and our Father says respect of persons is sin. (James 2:1-4, 8-13)

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  2. Jas 1:27
    27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

    Thank you for the poignant reminder to LOVE those whom others would throw away. Euthanasia is so increasingly prevalent, based on rising tides of godless humanistic philosophy, so that from every corner we are encouraged to “die with dignity” rather than choose to live and find even hidden usefulness until GOD HIMSELF determines to take us. I firmly believe there is a good purpose in our aging, possibly helpless years, to form in our hearts the patience and trust in God that only such experiences would give to us. King David himself suffered from aging to the point that others felt free to begin making decisions for him. Yet look at the wise heart he still had, as he encouraged the nation and his son Solomon to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. We need to learn to view aging with the honor God gives it, not as the world see it, a time of uselessness and burdening others.
    Prov 16:31 The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

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    • I received a letter from a friend out in Texas a few days ago. She sent pictures of her great grandson and gave a brief history of his infirmities and his first four years. The OBGYN had suggested abortion long before time for him to be born, but the father asked one question that made the decision.

      Does he have a heartbeat?

      Yes, his heartbeat is strong.

      Then he will live!

      Live he has, without arms, without legs, without bones in his torso or hands and feet. But he brings joy to that family daily. He talks incessantly and recently asked whether his high chair could be attached to the big table so he could be part of big people conversation there.

      We are not in God’s place to decide who should live and who should not. We are only here to be trained by the God we serve. Even the ones who are not particularly religious often complain about their “rough edges” being knocked off. And so it is with us. We are made better if we learn from our trials.

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  3. Rich, compassionate post, Beth. I led the children from one of our homeschool groups in Christmas caroling at two nursing homes last winter. The kids loved handing out gifts they’d made but it was hard for me to take seeing some of the seniors like that.

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    • I am no good at stream of consciousness writing, but maybe the thoughts from the patient will help others to know there really is something “in there” even though some are unable to speak. Recently the home wanted to put this lady on Hospice, but family and friends said they would be willing to be there to feed and take care of her needs. With that offer, Hospice backed off.

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  4. It is so easy to forget what others are going through when you are not yet in that stage and your own family members have all passed on. It always hurts my heart to think of the loneliness for those in nursing homes. I am ever impressed when I meet older people who have sweet dispositions despite their surroundings. I long for our daughters to learn to care for those who can no longer care for themselves. We have often gone to visit brethren and others in nursing homes, taking along our Bibles and song books. To see the joy in the faces of those who get very little variety in their day when you sing hymns with which they are familiar – it is edifying on such a deep level. I have been remiss about doing this since we’ve moved again. No family members of our own to check on and no brethren in long term care has made me forget that there are always those who have no one checking on them to whom we might be a blessing. Thanks for the lovely reminder! Even though we await a more wonderful end in heaven, we can bring comfort in the form of caring to others while we are yet here. 🙂

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    • When our children were babies and we took them to the nursing homes for devotionals or just to visit, we were amazed at how receptive the babies were to being loved on by the older people. Babies do not seem to be judges with evil thoughts. We were also amazed at how thrilled the elderly were to see and hold the babies. We all benefitted.

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    • Training children in compassion is the key. We also must learn compassion for the poor and needy. That is one way we grow in Jesus’ kind of love.

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    • Thanks so much for understanding. We took our children to visit the elderly and now they are taking their children. Even the very young ones seem edified after having a chance to get to know the older ones.

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    • Probably the best outcome would be that children might be able to assess the reality of life and know they too will be here one day. If they grow up in a bubble, their view is skewed.

      “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

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