MY ANCIENTS - continued
6-27-05 Per my usual routine, I was reading through the obituaries in the newspaper this a.m. I sadly noted the passing of one of "my ancients." "Henry" was not that old (82) but it had become evident in the last couple of months that he was beginning to fail. There were several trips to the hospital but he would be returned a day or two later looking a little worse for the wear.
I loved Henry. He had suffered a severe stroke several years ago and was seriously crippled as a result. But until the last couple of months, he could still walk with the help of his cane. He liked nothing better than to go sit on the screened-in front porch of the nursing home silently watching the coming and going of various and sundry employees, family members, and the ever present ambulances bringing residents back from the hospital or taking them to the hospital. At a nursing home, there's always someone going to or coming from a hospital.
But his right arm was useless and the stroke had affected the speech and cognition center of his brain. Despite these challenges, he was inevitably cheerful and always immensely pleased to see me. We had a routine. I hoped the routine was excercising his mental capacities if not his physical ones.
Me: Hello Henry!
Then I would silently point to the heavens
H: Wait a minute, wait a minute (pause)
H: God! ( in a somber and worshipful tone) - pause
H: Holy Bible! - pause
H: The Lord!
Then Henry would take his left arm (the good one) and lead the choir in the singing of Amazing Grace. Henry could not sing the words so he just hummed the tune. He had a good ear, so the notes he hummed were correct, it was quite dulcet. We (for I would join him) just hummed 1 verse.
H: "Hal - Lay - Lu -Yah" would be his final exclamation to cap the humming of the verse
Sometimes I would look at Henry and flex my bi-cep. He would immediately flex his good left bicep and utter; "muscles." Then he would lift his useless right arm with his left arm and attempt to flex that one. He never seemed bothered that his right side was crippled.
It took him two months to learn my first and last name. He actually quickly learned my first but he had trouble with the second. But was he proud of himself when he got it right without any help.
Unlike the many less fortunate "ancients" at a nursing home, Henry had an active family. I believe they lived fairly close but they came to visit frequently and would take him on little day passes. Henry enjoyed that. He was most fortunate in that respect.
Today I believe Henry is leading the celestial choir in the singing of Amazing Grace. And he's leading it with both arms, not just his left. His right arm is healed, he no longer needs a cane or wheelchair to get around and he knows all the words to all the verses.
And the final verse of Amazing Grace:
"When we've been there 10,000 years.
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
then when we first begun."
Henry I'll miss you. But do me a favor and save me a spot in the celestial choir will you?
I sing baritone. JB
UPDATE: I was able to talk to a couple of the nurses at the facility this morning. Henry, according to his family, was drawing his last few breaths when he suddenly pointed towards the edge of the ceiling and said, "see Jesus." And then he died.
I believe Henry did, at the very end, see his friend Jesus. Jesus was there to escort him out of the nursing home and into a life without sickness, sadness or sorrow.
You Go Henry!