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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas, Lucy

A woman answered the phone.

“Lucy?” I guessed, as she didn’t identify herself. 

“Hi Doris.” 

Yes, it’s Lucy!  

Lucy recognized my voice on the phone, knew it was me from my accent or from my many conversations with her.  I had been the social worker assigned to her father, Mr. Brown, for a year. My residents and some of their family members almost become my extended family.  It’s a good feeling.

“Lucy, I’d like to set up a meeting and discuss the option of Hospice for your Dad. As we recently talked, his condition is worsening every day.”

“Doris, go ahead and do it.” Her voice was gentle but clearly expressed her relief.  “You  know what’s the best for him.”

“Are you sure you don’t want the meeting?”

“There is no need. I will stop by this afternoon to see Dad.”

Lucy carried herself elegantly, was always well-dressed, beautiful inside and out for a confident woman in her mid sixties. While a prideful woman, her candid words left no doubts about her good heart. 

Lucy visited her father about twice a week, unless she was traveling with her husband. Recently retired, the couple would talk about their leisure trips, not to Florida, or California, but to Germany, Paris, Spain, England, India, and even to some countries in South America. 

Lucy sometimes brought pictures of her trips to share with her father, but he had little or nothing to say.  In his nineties, his dementia had advanced to such an extent that he could articulate little verbally and showed even less ability to recognize Lucy. 

Mr. Brown had two sons, but they had been estranged for many years, and wanted nothing to do with him.  No other family members were involved in Mr. Brown’s life.  He was divorced, and the mother of his children had died long ago.  I had been told that Mr. Brown came from another nursing home years before I came to work to the facility. 

The medical records reflected a history of being in the Alzheimer's unit. “Dementia with behavioral disturbances, Psychosis, Alcoholism, Depression” and the list of diagnosis continued. Now Mr. Brown was at the end of his life, and I was glad to see he had a supportive daughter.

Lucy’s husband, Fred, always accompanied her.  He was a man who everyone would refer to as a “nice guy.” A gentleman, down-to-earth man, quiet, most of the time. But he somehow reminded me of a guardian angel—or a body guard, perhaps.  Someone “there” for Lucy, but, not much for Mr. Brown.  

I heard a familiar voice, one I associated with cheerful feelings.  Turning, I viewed Lucy.  She looked  radiant, not just because she was wearing a hot pink coat, but also because her voice carried words in a tone intended to embrace the listener, as if audible hugs floating from her lips. She flashed a  smile which shone brighter than the Christmas lights that decorated the facility.

“Lucy, you are here early!”

“The hospice nurse called and told me I needed to sign some papers.” 

“Do you have any questions about Mr. Brown’s transition to hospice care?”  I wasn’t quite sure how informed Lucy was about her father’s significant medical decline. 

“I’m ready for Dad to go.”  Her voice became more firm, measured in her tone. “Maybe I should tell you some things about him.  You will understand better.”

I frowned, my confusion evident, I was sure.

“We can go to my office and talk, if you want.”

Lucy nodded.  No words passed between us. If one could ever actually see a lump in another’s throat, this was the time.  Her husband sat by the fireplace, observing us. Lucy signaled to him, to wait there.  He acknowledged, uncomfortably, and looked down. 

Lucy followed me to my office. I spied tears rolling down her cheeks as we sat. 

My heart pounded.  I’d never seen Lucy so vulnerable. 

“What’s going on, Lucy?” I reached for a Kleenex box and set it closer to her. 

“I love my Dad, don’t get me wrong, but my whole life I’ve had to deal with mixed feelings.” 

I nodded, unsure of the meaning of her statement, but remained quiet, letting Lucy continue after she regained her composure. 

“My father is an alcoholic.  I first realized his addition as a little girl.”  Her voice grew a bit stronger, revealing the anger she still harbored. “One day, he was terribly drunk.  He entered my room, and touched me—molested me. I was nine. I panicked—screaming.  My mother and brothers ran in. There was a big fight and that very night we left.  We all went to my grandparent’s house, and stayed there until my mother secured a place for us.”

Lucy paused.  Her eyes filled with tears again.  She clutched, seeming to gasp for air. 

My heart sank.  Now I was the one with a lump in the throat. 

“My mother... she never told my grandparent’s what happened.  She just said he was drinking too much and she couldn’t take it any more.  My brothers kept the secret as well.  The incident was never reported to anyone. None of us ever talked about it. Ever—until I told my husband.  He knows it happened, and that’s why he is always with me when I visit Dad.  I feel more comfortable with Fred around, even though my Dad is now reduced to nothing but still haunting me for a lifetime.”

I searched for empathetic words in my mind while Lucy vented. I could see she needed it, although I was in shock and basically tried to honor the shoulder she needed to lean upon that day.  The person to share such a terrible secret—her father’s unpunished crime.   

Lucy told me she received psychological therapy during her tender and younger years subsequent to the encounter that helped her to move on with her life. She was now a successful Relator, blessed with a happy marriage, and with two children, and several grandchildren. 

“I forgave Dad for what he did—or so I thought.  But now that he is dying, I have tangled feelings, suffocating me.  The thought of his passing will allow me to breathe again.  I feel ashamed of that thought, you know, it’s not a very Christian way to think.”

I expressed my admiration of her courage to share about her emotional pain. Lucy understood what she was feeling was human. She was aware that emotional healing is a continuous process.  

Sharing a shame she should never had to bear, Lucy sighed.  Her lungs were filled with fresh air and good spirit—the spirit of a warrior, I thought. 

She thanked me for taking the time to listening.  I was actually more grateful for her letting me see her inner beauty, and be an inspiration in my life. 

Mr. Brown passed away within a week, a week before Christmas. I wouldn’t see Lucy on Christmas eve bringing presents to her father, I realized.  Instead, Lucy would be with her loving husband, and children and grandchildren. That’s what she had planned after knowing she would no longer needed to come to the nursing home.  
This time would be a different Christmas for Lucy, I presumed.  It would be the beginning of long-waited closure—the end of a gloomy chapter in her life.  
As I walked by the nursing home fireplace on Christmas eve, I thought of Mr. Brown and Lucy.  May his soul rest in peace, I prayed. And merry Christmas, Lucy. Very merry Christmas.


Unknown said...

Wonderful, thanks for sharing.

A Plain Observer said...

Bitter sweet story. How can one ever recover from such action from one's own father. She is an amazing woman to take care of that man. Actually, I don't feel he deserved her forgiveness.

Big Mark 243 said...

I disagree with 'Just...' because many families have their broken edges and despite being cut by some of the edges, you have still got to do what you are compelled to do...

This lady, she is very much the Christian and I think that she did what she felt she had to do...

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Sometimes we meet people that are bigger than life! Lucy sure was one of them. There will be numerous untold stories like this, especially in countries where women are viewed as worthless. Let us all be grateful for the true Peace that each human being is entitled to carry inside.
May you have a blessed Christmas!


Karin said...

I'm so glad she had forgiven her dad for sinning against her! That can only be done because one has Christ in one's heart. Trust me, I know!

Bica said...

If not for Lucy, her dad would have had no one; a situation of his own creation. How lucky he was, to have such a wonderful daughter. That she was able to forgive,and be attentive and caring, speaks volumes...what a woman of character.

I hope that Lucy now has the peace she deserves.

floweringmama said...

A bittersweet and poignant story. I always enjoy your posts.

Merry Christmas

dolorah said...

An emotive story. I wish Lucy brighter days.

Have a Merry Christmas Doris.


Sandi said...

A sad story, to be sure. How hard Lucy's life must have been, and how difficult for her and her husband. Yet, Lucy did what she felt was the right thing to do, and I believe her choice was honored. I'm glad she was able to forgive her dad, as forgiveness is that first step towards healing from the pain she suffered long ago.

Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Cloudia said...

your heart is rich

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Doris .. thank you sharing another aspect of life to us .. people are amazing ... and I too wish and hope that Lucy is having a peaceful contented time now - with her own family.

I wonder about the sons - the tragedy was for their sister, yet they weren't there to help at the end or before ..

Interesting this difference between the men and women in our lives ..

Doris - thank you for telling us about Lucy - I too will remember her ..

I hope you too can have a happy and peaceful Christmas with your family, friends and patients .. with thoughts for the amazing year of stories you have given us. Cheers Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Molestation is a a horrible act;no victim will ever forget. It's always great for them when they forgive.

Great post!


DUTA said...

Brilliantly written post! Lucy's confession is very moving.

Mr. Brown was drunk that night, perhaps that's why Lucy found the strength to somehow forgive him for his terrible act.

As for her brothers, who knows, maybe they were afraid they might also become alcoholics like him - hence the estrangement.

Estranged children is always a tragic issue, especially when the parent is in a deteriorating condition.


Thanks for sharing it was very sad to read.


Linda Myers said...

There are many stories, aren't there?

Forgiveness is very difficult. But if it happens, it's so freeing.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Another beautiful, poignant story, Doris, and so perfect for the Christmas season with its themes of family pain, secrets, forgiveness, loss and relief. Thank goodness you were there for Lucy and able to hear her painful, mixed feelings about her father. It must have been invaluable in helping her make that transition to a new life without him.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this story of pain, secrets, and forgiveness. Molestation doesn't happen because of drunkenness and it may have occurred to others in the family.
Lucy's courage to forgive ensures that she is well on her way to peace and she has made room for joy to fill her up. I pray for Lucy's brothers to find peace also.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thank's for sharing such a touching story. Lucy is a strong woman and so are you. I don't believe I could be a social worker.

Mary L. Briggs said...

A very special story. You are in a special position to help people--talk to them. Most have no idea what people are really dealing with. I can't imagine her jumbled emotions as she dealt with her dad's death.

Ricardo Miñana said...

Beautiful lyrics, Christmas is endearing,
These days I wish peace and happiness come to your house.
Happy Holidays!.
a hug.

Terri Tiffany said...

I've missed you! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your own personal story with me. You do understand the fear and stress and that helps:)
My father is in hospice care now and he too was an alcoholic and not the nicest man around. I struggle with my emotions toward him and last saw him two years ago while he was out again of the nursing home. I've told my mother I prefer not to attend his funeral and would like to remember him as he was the last time I saw him. Decisions surrounding death of our loved ones aren't always taken well but God knows our hearts, doesn't he?

Chatty Crone said...

my thoughts and prayers go to Lucy.

Merry Christmas.

Linda said...

Such a strong woman! Thanks for sharing her story.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Wow! It says so much about Lucy that she was still there for her Dad after what he had done to her. Now THAT is the sort of spiritual living and forgiving that Jesus and Saint Paul were trying to teach us.

Lady Doris, I'm glad you're back. You didn't show up on my dashboard for the longest time.

A joyful Christmas to you and your entire family, my friend. You do great work!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

POSTSCRIPT: And thanks for the nice comments you left on a couple of my recent blog bits!

Claudia Zurc said...

What a sad story. Unfortunately, there are so many stories like this and nobody knows about it. Thank you for sharing this story.
Best wishes for the holidays and the new year.

Rita said...

If you don't forgive the horrible things people have done to you...then you carry the burden of them with you no matter where you go. It's like they win. You never forget what they did, but learning to forgive is like tossing that heavy burden on the side of the road. Your path is lighter. They can't hurt you any more.

Wonderful story. She's a woman I'd love to sit and have coffee with. :)

Amrita said...

I admire Lucy. May her life be peaceful evermore.

Merry Christmas Doris. You are such a sensitive person

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thanks for sharing this story Doris - we often fail to realise the burdens some carry. Hats off to all those like Lucy.

Merry Christmas.

Anna :o]

Jules said...

Oh Doris... your insight into the world of caring goes beyond that of a normal person. What a heart and a story!

Jube is wishing you the Merriest Christmas of them all. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Unknown said...

What a sad story. Lucy is an amazing woman and I, too, will think of her over Christmas.

Thanks for sharing, Doris. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

André Tavares said...


Beautiful story .... makes us think ....... Congratulations
Thank you for being part of my blog.
Merry Christmas and 2012 with great health,
peace and love.

André Tavares.

Arlee Bird said...

Wow! What a difficult thing Lucy had to deal with. Mr. Brown should have been thankful to have had such a forgiving daughter.

Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.

Wrote By Rote

cyclopseven said...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Doris.May the divine light of this moment brightens your life ever. God bless.

Diane J Standiford said...

Merry Christmas, Doris.
I live in a retirement community, that place before the nursing home or hospice. The stories here are so varied and rich. For me, each is a lesson I will learn. I feel blessed. Some adult children abuse their parents, some visit every day, some treat them like a bother, some cry everytime they hug them good-bye. I look at those who have not grown and become better people because of their life experiences, and wonder if they know how much wasted time could have been lived in love instead of hate. Each of us must make that choice--how we will live, how we will grow old, how we will die. We must always TRY to live in love.

Mary Aalgaard said...

What a heavy burden to carry all those years. So glad she found healing. I wonder if her dad was ever able to acknowledge what he did and ask forgiveness.

C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful story, and one that has been played out repeatedly in so many families. Those adult children who actually decide to stay to help are a great source of inspiration!

Mairie said...

We all have our stories, our hurts and our darknesses - it isn't having them that matters - its how we choose to deal with them.
The Blessings of the peace of Christmas to you

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

''Just another well written heartfelt story of one truly brave woman.

You sweetie, are a treasure!

God bless and have yourself a fantastic New Year!!!

Ann said...

A very sad yet lovely story. I hope you and your family had a very happy and peaceful Christmas Doris. My best wishes to you for a happy New Year!