Caroline frowned and took a deep breath. She slowly approached the front door of The Gardens. What an inappropriate name! Where were the gardens? She approached the nurses station ahead. At least these folks didn't wear the white garb anymore. The nurses and aides all were dressed in scrubs with various pretty patterns and colors. Maybe it wouldn't seem so much like a hospital atmosphere, usually so depressing, Caroline thought. Maybe she wouldn't come away wishing she'd never have to come back. The place was clean, too clean actually as it smelled to her like antiseptic and bleach. She sighed heavily. The Gardens, where were the plants? Where was Nana?
Since Nana's stroke she had been living here at The Gardens and this was Caroline's first visit, prompted by her mother. Caroline could hear her mother now, her high pitched voice echoing in her ear about how Nana needed visitors daily. She couldn't come today her job was demanding. Couldn't Caroline visit?
The nurse at the reception desk was pleasant and directed Caroline down the well scrubbed hall. 'Room 23 Miss. I know Miss Addy will be thrilled to see you!”
Caroline smiled and said “Thank you.” She hoped her grandmother would know her. Mom said sometimes she didn't know her own daughter. Adeline Augusta Pierce had once been a vibrant woman, full of fun and Caroline had loved to visit her as a kid. It had been sometime now since she had seen her grandmother and today all she wanted to do was get this visit over with. After all, didn't she have three kids of her own, a part time job and a house full of laundry awaiting her at home? She'd make the visit as quick as she could. This wasn't her Nana she remembered from years past. This was an old woman, barely alive anymore. Right?
Room 23 was painted a light yellow and had sunshine streaming in the windows. , but no Nana. Where was she? Caroline sat down in the chair nearest the window and glanced around. Guess she'd be back soon, she couldn't go far. As she sat, head in palm resting, Caroline sighed heavily. This “end of life” place. Would she end up somewhere like this someday? Would her kids come visit her? How could her Nana stand this being cooped up in here every day. She had to admit as her eyes glanced around the room, it wasn't too bad. Nana loved plants and a small African violet bloomed in purple flowers on the stand next to the bed. Various books and pictures of family surrounded the bookcase near the closet. No television blaring loudly like in other rooms at least. Caroline sighed.
After ten minutes of no Nana, Caroline ventured into the hall and asked the aide who was walking along with another resident where she thought Addy Pierce might be.
The girl,who barely looked 18, stopped and pointed down the hall. “Oh Miss Addy is always down in the lounge about this time, mam. Our resident cheerleader is on duty.”
“Thank you,” Caroline replied as she thought to herself. Resident cheerleader? Passing residents in the hallway as Caroline walked the squeaky clean linoleum, she tried to psych herself up to see Nana. Probably slumped over in her chair, tied in maybe so she wouldn't fall out and asleep. She had seen some folks in this posture since she'd been here. Wouldn't that be great, then she could just pat Nana's hand and say a few words and leave. After all, who wanted to watch someone sleep? She would have done her duty.
As Caroline entered the lounge she saw about ten residents scattered around the room, some in wheelchairs, some with their canes next to their chairs and a few wandering the room. Nana? Looking around she saw in the corner, two wheelchairs pulled up together, white heads with their backs to her. Their heads were bowed and their hands were clasped. One looked like it might be Nana.
As she approached, she heard their low murmurs and realized they were praying. Just like Nana to be praying, she thought. It was she who had taught Caroline the simple prayers she knew when she was a child. This surely brought back memories of spending the night at Nana's house. They would kneel together at the end of the four poster and talk to God. Caroline pursed her lips and thought to herself. How long had it been since she had talked to God?
Drawing up a chair to sit with the two women near their wheelchairs, Caroline awaited the prayers to end and closed her own eyes a moment. She listened quietly to her Nana praying for the woman whose hand she held. The prayer was respectful and encouraging. “Please be with my friend Laura today Lord for she has a heavy heart. Please give her the courage and strength to live in this beautiful place where she is so well cared for with happiness until you take her home. For we know that we can glow today, We can go light our world.”
Caroline bit her lip. GLOW. Yep, Nana had told her that many times. “Go Light Our World”. She had forgotten this little saying. This reminder brought a tear to Caroline's eye she brushed away. When had she last lit up anyone's world? Life had become for her a duty. She knew she missed out on the dreams she had once had and now lived very unlike a “glow”. She was more like a dull bulb often barely lit.
The prayer finished, the two women opened their eyes as Caroline had finally done. Sensing her presence, Addy Pierce looked at Caroline and a wide smile graced her lined face. “Well look here, Laura” she cried joyfully. “We have a guest. Hello honey, how are you dear? My name is Adeline Pierce and this here is my friend, Laura.”
Caroline took her grandmother's cool hand in hers and introduced herself. Her mother was right. Today Nana didn't recognize her. Yet, it was okay, for this lovely, gray haired lady before her was pleasant and happy to see her. Stroking the dark spotted hand she still held, she said softly, "It is Caroline. Remember me? Your granddaughter?”
Addy Pierce continued to let the light shine from her blue eyes as she examined her granddaughter. “You are a beautiful woman. Have we met? I am not sure I have a granddaughter, honey, but if I do I am glad you are it!”
Caroline let out a laugh as she squeezed her grandmother's hand. “I love you Nana. I love meeting your friend, Laura, too. I overheard your prayers. You reminded me to “go light our world.”
Addy shook her head in agreement, “Yep, I remind everyone that. What blessings we have daily! Look around us. This is a lovely place to live, everyone is so helpful and I have friends. Jesus too. He reminds me how he loves me daily.”
Caroline pushed the wheelchair back to her grandmother's room and the visit they enjoyed lasted well over an hour. The white haired woman refused to lose her smile, until she apologized and had to close her eyes, for as she said, ”Must rest, but just for a little bit”.
Caroline continued to sit in her Nana's room, looking out the large window which faced a perennial garden. Ah, there was the garden! She could see how beautiful it was on this summer day, full of gold, green and pink colors. How had she not noticed this lovely garden before? The Gardens, yes, what an appropriate name for the place. She looked over at her slumped Nana, sleeping peacefully in her wheelchair, her hands folded in her lap. Her Nana still radiated Christ's love and brought it to all. She glowed! Caroline laughed to herself. And she had thought she was doing Nana a favor by visiting! Nana had blessed her immensely today. She had reminded her what joy was - in any situation. It was in the small things, the mundane things. Yes, she was thankful. Yes, thankful she was alive. Thankful for this woman who had continually blessed her life, who had reminded her to “go light our world.” Nana surely had lit up her friend Laura's today; she was sure of that!The aide who had called her Nana a cheerleader had been so right!
Reaching her car that late afternoon,Caroline sat for a moment in the quiet before she returned home to her busy life. Bowing her head, she said in a whisper, “Help me to be a cheerleader too. Help me to glow and bring light wherever I am, no matter the circumstances. Thank you for my wonderful Nana and her happy spirit. Thank you God, Thanks an awful lot.”