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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Sunshine

“Why are you working today?” Nurse Inez asked, with an expression of surprise on her face when she saw me.
“I just came in for a little while to finish some paperwork,” I said, reaching for a resident’s medical chart. 
I didn’t normally work on the weekends, but that morning I felt the impulse of going to the nursing home to complete a couple of social services assessments.
Once I was finished, I grabbed my purse to head back home. But the thought of Vivian, one of my new residents, popped up in my mind. 
I put my purse back in my desk drawer and decided to check on Vivian before leaving. 
It will take just a few minutes, I thought to myself. 
Vivian was in the hall, sitting in her wheelchair, observing people. 
“Hello Vivian.” I drew close to her, and kneeled to make eye contact. 
“Hi” Vivian flashed a wide smile. 
In her late eighties, Vivian had managed well living alone until recently when she had become weaker and more confused. Her dementia had rapidly progressed. It was uncertain whether Vivian would be able to go back to her home. 
But Vivian didn't seem concerned about that, or anything. She voiced no desires to return home, nor stay in the nursing home. Always smiling, she liked when staff stopped by and talked to her about the food, the birds in the aviary or the flowers and plants in the courtyard. Her memory was limited, and she seemed to prefer conversations over tangible things around her. 
I asked Vivian about the breakfast she had that morning. She couldn’t remember what she had, but she expressed she liked it and that she was still full. She turned her head to look at a glass door at the end of the hall. 
“It must be nice out there,” Vivian said, pointing out at the sunny view of a courtyard clearly visible through the glass panel.
“It’s nice, Vivian, but it’s very hot today.”
“I like the sunshine.” Vivian smiled. “The sun doesn’t bother me.”
My knees started to feel numb from kneeling, and I had not planned to stay much longer at the nursing home, but Vivian’s eyes fixed on the outdoor view made me change plans.
“Vivian, would you like to come with me to the sunroom?” I held Vivian’s hand. “There’s plenty of sunshine there, and a beautiful view of a pond and a garden.” 
“Yes, please!” Vivian’s voice sounded vibrant. 
I wheeled Vivian to the sunroom. The golden glow in the sunroom made it a welcoming place. It felt warm and inviting—almost brighter than usual, I thought. Or maybe it was Vivian’s beaming smile that made the place look more radiant. 

Vivian and I engaged in contemplation of the beauty of nature. We indulged in the serenity of the garden and the    birds graciously bathing in the pond.  
Why am I always rushing? Why is my mind often occupied on paperwork deadlines?, I pondered. 
Vivian and I went back to our chattering as the sunlight embraced us. She avidly talked about her gardening activities. The conversation brought her memories of her late husband. Vivian knew he had passed away a while ago, but at times, Vivian talked about him as if it was in the present—as if he was still alive.
“Oh, there you are!” A nurse had unexpectedly walked in the sunroom. “I have been looking for Vivian. It’s time for her treatment.”
I said good-bye to Vivian as she was leaving the sunroom with the nurse. Vivian’s joyful smile remained in my thoughts as I went back to my office. 
I left the facility with gleeful feelings. I had had a pleasant time with Vivian. 
That evening, I received a phone call from Vivian’s nurse. 
“Doris, I have sad news.”
My heart pounded. To my dismay, the nurse was the bearer of bad tidings. 
“What happened?” Those seconds seemed like an eternity.
“Vivian had a heart attack this afternoon.” 
“What?” I gasped in surprise. “How is she?”
“She was rushed to the hospital.” the nurse’s words were near mumbled. “But she died shortly after arriving to the ER.”
I never anticipated Vivian’s passing that particular day. Or that she was ready to meet the Lord—and her husband.
“It looks nice out there.”  Her words echoed in my mind.  Simple words. Or perhaps mysterious words. Who would know?

In my heart, I felt certain that Vivian had found the sunshine. The sunshine she was longing for. 


Karin said...

Great story! We never know when it is going to be anyone's last time! God bless!

Bica said...

Glad you were able to spend some time that day, in the sunshine with Vivian - I'm sure it made her last day special.


With tears in my eyes I say thanks for sharing this,


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Doris .. wonderful - we just never know .. and finding that sunshine there maybe called her - thanks for sharing with us .. Hilary

Linda said...

How wonderful you had some time together. It is so hard not to rush through life, something I have been working on!

Cynthia said...

I'm so happy you were able to grant
Vivian her last wish.

Big Mark 243 said...

Wow... must have been kismet. Vivian prolly was a sweet lady and deserved to bask in the sun one last time... and you were fortunate enough to be able to provide it..!

John Paul McKinney said...

These are completely beautiful posts. I am glad you are there for these folks, as I was glad my mother had wonderful care. These also remind me of my own clinical work years ago; clients come back to mind vividly - clients I haven't thought about in years. Thank you for that. I hope I gave them even a small fraction of the satisfaction you have been able to give. I hope you are teaching.

Retired Knitter said...

LIving daily with an elderly mother I have learned that some things can't be rushed. That the elderly often find joy in the simple things, that they don't require all that much from us if we also slow down some.

Slowing down is still hard for me ... but I'll get there too, in 20 years or so.


Amrita said...

Dear Doris, God sent you as an angel of sunshine to Vivian. You never know what is coming.

I am taking care of Aunt Maya. Sometimes it gets too much, your story encouraged me

Anne Gallagher said...

Such a prophetic story. I agree with Vivian. We MUST go outside every day into the sunshine. Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

Social Work Helps said...

What a sweet story. Those close to the end of this life always seem to have a special spirit around them. I'm so glad that you spent time with her during her final day on earth. I'm sure it was a blessed experience for both parties.

Deb Shucka said...

Another incredible story. It's so cool that you listened to your inner voice and gave both Vivian and yourself the gift of that last day.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Doris, what a beautiful post -- and important reminder that we don't get so caught up in the rush of daily life that we miss the sunshine, both literally and in priceless moments with others.

Arkansas Patti said...

Per usual, you have touched me greatly.
Bless you for taking those moments. You have such a gift, for seeing, feeling and then telling us about it. Thank you.

A Plain Observer said...

I had a comment formed in my mind about older people feeling limited, then I read on. I imagine how you felt dear Doris. It was so good of you to give her pleasant company as she got ready to enter that place that "must be nice"

Mary Aalgaard said...

A beautiful story of stopping to take time for someone, never knowing if you'll ever have the chance again.

Sweet Lily said...

Excellent post! Touched my heart!

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

What a great reminder to stop and take the time with others we need to. What a joyful experience Miss Vivian must be havin' baskin' in His sunshine dancein' with Jesus.

We just moved my little MIL into an assisted living facility. Much to our surprise, she's as happy as a clam in the sunshine.

Loved readin' your beautifully written story.

God bless and have a beautiful fall weekend sweetie!!! :o)

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Wow. I am so glad that you listened to God and followed your heart that day. Not only did you brighten Vivian's last day and enjoy yourself, you will have no regrets. What an example of going with the flow, serendipity or whatever the word for it is, and I sure am glad that you shared this story with us.

Thanks so much for stopping by to say hi.

God bless,

Kathy M.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

What another touching story about bringing sunshine into another person's life.
We all never know what's around the bend... But you can always look back on a great deed for guiding her into eternal sunshine with a little act of love.

Love to you,


Unknown said...

you have an award at ifeelsounnecessary.com

Libby said...

wonderful story, doris! every home health nurse that comes over starts looking through your book...you've got a following now here in ohio! and, is there any way i could get you to sign one and i could buy it from you? please?

Unknown said...

I have just stumbled across your blog. What a blessing that day when you stopped for Vivian. I have a great deal of experience with loved ones with dementia, and both skilled care and assisted living. One left now, 94 year old MIL in town. This follows part of my professional career at the state government level involved in long term care administration and licensing. I am sure you will have interesting tales to share and some tales not so nice that you may not choose to share.

Anita said...

What a sad, but sweet story. I am glad that your were able to bring a little sunshine in Vivian's life and we know that she is resting in the eternal sunshine of her Lord.
Bless you,