A woman answered the phone.
“Lucy?” I guessed, as she didn’t identify herself.
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.