By JerryAnn Berry
She knocked gently on the door to the room where strange unintelligible sounds came from a crib-like bed pushed up against the wall. It was the result of her nursing assistant training, this knocking, even though she knew that she wouldn’t get an appropriate, “come in”.
The sun shone warmly in the windows but hit the floor in front of the bed. Her nose caught the smell of excrement before she saw the tiny occupant of the bed–bone thin, her only clothes a half torn off diaper, legs contracted and stiff, bent. Her body lay in a “S” shape with only her arms and hands to flail around. It was obvious that she had sometimes been able to make her hands work. Dark smudge marks on the sheet and walls proved that; as did the smelly dark material that was under her fingernails and on her belly. A bath was in order. And that is what the woman in the striped uniform had come to do.
She laid down her stack of towels, bed linen and toiletries. She knew that the others particularly despised this patient. She had heard the tales of her biting or scratching and even more frequently her fecal smearing.
Small beady eyes stared up at her as she approached the bed. A guttural howl emerged from the toothless mouth. As she prepared the warm water in the basin she started to hum a hymn she remembered from a childhood of singing them. The howls stopped. Warm water, soap, and soft wash cloths soon cleaned up the mess. The beady eyes never left her face. Even when she turned the woman clumsily to place clean sheets upon the bed her face twisted around so the eyes could see her. The music seemed to mesmerize the tiny patient.
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus Blood and righteousness”. The words reminded the working nurse’s aide of her mother. How she had loved this song. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.”
She followed that with another of her mother’s favorite. “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” Still the eyes from the emaciated body followed her. The toothless mouth closed slightly and a soft sort of sound escaped her lips. The nursing assistant positioned a clean gown around the twisted body and secured it with its ties behind the thin neck. She smiled into that wrinkled face and said. “Do you like to sing?”
She saw a nod and the mouth opened wider and the sound got louder though very out of key! Then she got an idea. It might be crazy but she knew what she had to do next. She grabbed a soft blanket and wrapped the tiny, worthless body up and carried it to a rocking chair in the corner.
Together they sat and rocked and sang. The young clear voice and the old croaking one accompanied by the sound of rockers creaking on the floor.
“Amazing Grace How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
“When peace like a river attended my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my loss thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”
“How sad,” thought the girl, “our soul still needs hope and peace no matter what age does to our bodies.” She felt the woman relax, almost snuggle down into her lap. “Just because she is old and incapable of doing what her younger body did, she still longs for love and a caring touch. Her soul still needs to be well and to be found. God knows who she is and where she has been and all that her life has held. And He has given me this moment to reassure her of His love. What an honor that is.”
It seemed appropriate to sing the favorite of her childhood. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but He is strong.” This too is a weak little one! And Jesus loves her too!
She looked down to see the beady eyes closed and the wrinkled face upturned. The toothless mouth still moved though no sound emerged. Carefully she carried the woman and placed her in her clean bed. Then she tucked soft blankets around the twisted legs.