I am fully awake each time I walk down this hallway-but it seems like a dream. This is a special place. Like a library, it harbors stories , history, and information. The open doors line the walls. As I walk, I can see a life ticking away inside of each room.
I admit, I come here seeking enlightenment. Seeking hope. It’s a hallway of Life Journeys and I actually learn as much about myself as the residents that live here and share their stories.
It’s called a convalescent center. We used to call it a nursing home, but times have changed. I am drawn to the wing where people are waiting to die.
The benevolent lessons they give may seem small, but they are life changing. For instance, they’ve taught me to give a gentle greeting to each person I meet. To look them in the eyes, really look. To stop what I’m doing and listen to their words. And to listen to what they’re not saying.
I’m used to tossing out a hello as I pass people. I’m focused on my day. But when I walk with the residents, I see that each of their “Hellos” is given with a pause, and leaves a feeling of being accepted and worthy. There is a grace to their greetings.
The latest thing I learned was when a resident-for no special reason- asked me, “What words do you wish your mother had said to you?”
My hand flew to my mouth. My eyes watered. I couldn’t answer. It didn’t matter. The old woman smiled and patted my hand.
I’ve pondered the question many times since then. What seems to resonate for me are words like: “I’m proud of you.” Words that showed unconditional acceptance.
I suppose it’s a parent’s desire to push their child to reach full potential, but the undercurrent of those messages says that : You’re not okay like you are. You need to be smarter, more motivated, keep your room cleaner. Nag. Nag. “You need to be better.”
I’m guilty of that, too.
Several weeks have passed since that last lesson. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that it’s not too late to share those gracious words: “I’m proud of you,” with a spouse, a child, a friend, a relative, or a co-worker. While I can’t change the past, I can affect the future. I can create an atmosphere of being accepted-just as you are.
I’m learning that HOPE often comes in the pauses in life.
The doorways of the convalescent center are treasured gateways. Each has a jewel. Each has made a life journey. I return because I always find someone willing to pause and share a bit of hope for my walk through life.