Yesterday, going down the nursing home’s hallway, I finally came up to her room and saw that the door was open. I knocked on the door out of courtesy but no response. I enter quietly, and I see her there fast asleep. I made a few attempts at calling her name in order wake her, and she eventually woke up. But she started crying as soon as she woke up.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
She explained that she’s glad that [whoever] had posted that on her wall because it helps her deal with what her fears. I then felt it appropriate to let her know of a quote by St. Augustine. I only offered it because it’s something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately, and it just somehow felt fitting to give her:
…our heart is restless until it rests in You. (from his Confessions)
The way I was understanding her fear of death was that it is out of anxiety and not being at peace with the idea of death. A sort of restlessness. In my own life right now, I’m terribly restless and have only found peace by resting in God (usually through Adoration of the Holy Eucharist). And it’s been a frequent reflection of mine for a long while now.
She really liked that quote. I’m not sure that she’ll remember it, and I regret not having written it down for her, but I could tell that it did strike a chord with her.
After that, I offered to read her Sunday’s Gospel reading, though I read the shorter version. These were the parables that Jesus told regarding the rejoicing of finding the lost sheep as well as the woman who lost one of her coins and rejoiced after she diligently searched for it and found it. Since I read the shorter version of Sunday’s Gospel reading, it didn’t include the fan favorite: the parable of the prodigal son. She really liked hearing the Gospel that I read, and she even offered her own personal reflection (briefly) from the reading.
And we kind of got back into the conversation of being scared to die. To which I then asked her if she wanted to receive the Eucharist (because she sometimes doesn’t). She was a little hesitant because she let me know that she wanted to go to Confession as well. Haha, she actually asked me if I could hear her confession, but I told her that I can’t do that since I’m not a priest, but I offered to have a priest come visit her at some point sometime soon. She very much liked that idea.
She ultimately decided to receive Jesus in the Eucharist because she felt that it would help her deal with her restlessness and fear regarding death. So after humbly obliging to rinsing out her dentures at her request so that she could talk better and eat better, I was able to minister the Eucharist to her.
After she received the Eucharist, she was just incredibly grateful for my visit. And she was just really grateful for us praying together and her receiving the Eucharist. By that point, I had to leave to go visit other residents, and I assured her that I would continue praying for her and that I would call our parish office to have a priest come by and visit to hear her confession.
I left her room feeling really grateful myself for having had this opportunity. This was my first time talking about the reality of death with a nursing home resident. They’re usually A) asleep, B) wanting to talk about other things or C) incoherent. It just seemed really providential that it all worked out this way.
I was thinking just now how this little episode visiting her kind of ties in with this past Sunday’s Gospel. Would a lonesome sheep not be scared that he is separated from the rest? The woman who lost her coin was probably scared because she lost something valuable. The prodigal son was probably freaking out once he lost everything and was fearful in coming back home. Yet, as Jesus shows us, there’s much rejoicing to be had whenever the lost has been found. And when we know this and take it to heart, we have nothing to fear, not even death itself.
I did call my parish earlier today, and a priest will be visiting her soon! 🙂
Her name is Judy. Please pray for her! …that she finds rest and peace in God and that whenever her hour has come, she’s ready to come home.