Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Low Energy Room

I visited my mother later than I usually do because of severe traffic delays. I arrived at the nursing home around 5:20 p.m. and the residents were finishing dinner. My mother had two uneaten chocolate chip cookies in front of her with a glass of milk and a glass of apple juice. No one was speaking, the lights were dimmed low, the kitchen help were collecting soiled trays, and the atmosphere in the room was subdued.

I asked my mother if she ate any food and she said, "I'm full." "Well, did you eat earlier?" "No, I'm fat." "Would you like something to drink?" "They took it away. I had something on the table earlier." I replied, "Your juice and your milk are here, if you'd like." "Those aren't mine." "I can get you what you would like. I can make you any food that you would like to eat." "No, thank you."

"Did you know that you are quite thin?" "No, I'm fat." "Not really. Your weight is down to 75 pounds and the body gets weak when it is at this weight." "Do you have an appetite?" "Nothing really takes good." "What about the cookies?" "Did you bake them?" "I did." "Well, I'll have one then." Munching away, "What type of cookies are these?" "Chocolate chip." "They are fine."

"I always liked your baking. You were a good cook." "I was? I didn't think so." "Yes, you were very good."

We had a lot of small talk. Women would wave at us and smile. Some women would utter some words that came from nowhere. The woman next to me kept saying about herself, "I know I'm dumb, I know I'm dumb, I know I'm dumb, but they tell me I'm cute." I replied, "I think you are brilliant," and she smiled brightly and rubbed my knee in thanksgiving.

My mother and I talked about egg sandwiches, how to make mashed potatoes, and her like of warm blankets. I asked how her legs were feeling. "They hurt." So, I gently touched them, "That tickles, but it feels good. Don't stop."

"I just want to mention again that your weight is low. Your legs will hurt because of it." "I'll eat someday. In a day or two, I can put it back on." "I think this time it is different. I'm concerned about your weight." We talked about a few other unrelated things, and some nearby women had small bursts of conversations with my mother.

Finally, we prayed. "Yes, I always want communion. You don't have to ask." We prayed the Lord's Prayer and she had communion, and she said, "I pray for the usual things. Good health and happiness."

"How about if I say a prayer of the church for those who are sick?" "OK" I started with the prayers and she said, "Those words are so nice." It came time to anoint her and I asked her if I could apply the sacred oil to her forehead and hands, and she said yes. "You can wipe your hands together." "O, I like that. I like how it smells."

"Let me give you some oil that I received from Jericho. It is perfumed nard, just like the oil that bathed the body of Jesus." I applied it on her forehead and her wrists, and she looked at me and says, "This smells so good." "Wipe your wrists together and smell them every once in a while." "Ooh, I will."

We continued with the prayer. "These are nice words." Then I prayed for her by name and said the prayers for those in their old age and she her face fell. She looked sad and said, "I'm sad. I didn't know those words were for me. I'm not ready to die."

"O, no. This is the anointing of the sick. This is the prayer that helps people get well. This is to strengthen you and to encourage you. The prayer is so you get well." "O, that's better."

We sat and talked about a few other things. The lights were low, some women's eyes were closing, and night was falling. Then a staff activities person came in from the outdoors with a bucket of snow and asked the residents if they wanted to make snowballs. Wheelchairs began to creep in her direction and I sensed it was my time to leave.

Goodnight, dear people. Sleep well tonight.


  1. Prayers for the dimming light.

  2. A poem about snow, oldness and birth for new year 2018 :

    New Year’s Day 2018.

    Hard and crusty snow.
    It’s 2 degrees below
    In the backyard where
    Only bundled children tread
    Trailing ribbons and scarves of red.

    The living room tree bows and sheds
    Where last week week Santa left a dolly bed.
    Toasts in egg nog or prosecco
    Are memory of Christmas revels.
    Can you still hear the carols’ echos?

    Despite cold and old - the new again.
    In love and birth - the new year ordains
    A chance, a life, a hope to thrive -
    Listen, the newborn's cry - it fills our lives
    The frozen tired world revives.

    Happy New Year; Blessings in 2018
    Mary Lou Ashur MD