Hope, it is a strange thing. It fires people up even when there seems not much to cling on to. When one loses it, though, it is almost impossible to muster up strength to hold on, to fight, to stay. One of the ladies where I work is on the brink of despair.
I have known her since I started work. It took her a while but she finally knows me by name. We don’t really have much to chat about because most of the time I see her is when I do morning and afternoon tea rounds. Our conversations are limited to, “Hi, how are you? Would you like a cup of tea today?” Recently, it has been, “Hi, a cup of milk?” because that has been all she wanted to drink for the past few months.
Two weeks ago, her husband passed away. He was admitted into the hospital shortly after I started work, and returned for only a few days before he took his last breath. I heard the news via the company’s text message. When I went back to work the following week, there was a flurry of visitors – her children, grandchildren and friends – to check up on her, to keep her company. Her room was bright with colours from balloons and flowers, but her face was pale. Despite the effort, it was obvious that hope started to seep out of her and took the blood that usually shed her cheeks pink away with it. She begged, as one of the staff members went in to assist her this morning, “Let me go. It is time. Let me die.”
I tried to put myself in her shoes. If I had to battle cancer alone in an aged care facility, nearing the end of my life without Joel, I would probably be begging the same thing. I really don’t know what is going through her mind at the moment, but I am praying hard for peace and a glimpse of hope to shine in her again. That when she sees the faces of her loved ones, she would realise that there is so much to live for – that she has a reason to stay.
Maybe it is selfish for me to wish that for her. Maybe all she wants now is to be reunited with the love of her life. And to try to keep her is just delaying the inevitable.
Today’s event made me look at Ecclesiastes 3, where King Solomon wrote,
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (3: 1,2,4)
Though it was difficult seeing someone willing herself to leave this earth, I was still reminded of joy through a 92-year-old war veteran, who beamed at the picture of his great-grandson and who continued to tease my ability to balance all the cups and plates in one hand. I was blessed to hear an old lady, who I had passed off as being paralysed and mute, address me in a very clear and precise manner (I was almost knocked off my feet when she spoke to me! I was seriously yelling joyously inside, “she talks and she eats all by herself!”).
Yes, I often complain about my work, and blame God about being stuck in a job that I don’t want to do. But from time to time, when my heart is clear, I can see His hands in my life; and His face in the residents I serve – from the “three musketeers” ladies, who laughed at my sneeze, to the grumpy old man who always lost his glasses (and guess what, they were in his shoe!).
Going to work is like watching a sitcom, really, except I am in it. There is stress, oh yes, but there is also humour. There is all these emotions, but at the end of the day, when I come home, I am thanking God for the rich conversation I get to have with Him throughout the day; and for the part I get to play in these people’s lives even though it may seem insignificant at times.
And I suppose that is hope for me – not that I will get another job soon, but that whilst I serve people food here, God would continue to build me up spiritually so that those who surround me may see Him at work in my life. And isn’t that something we all should strive for? To make God known wherever we are in everything we do.