- Aging & Longevity
Seeing Life Through Eunice's Eyes
Ms. Eunice is 87 years old, and lives in a nursing home. She just lost her husband two months ago. Ms. Eunice is also partially blind - her vision quickly fading away from a deteriorating condition known as macular degeneration. Ms. Eunice is one of my clients, but fast becoming more of a mentor and teacher. You see, Ms. Eunice is teaching me about seeing life through her eyes. Not her weak, failing, bloodshot eyes; but through the wise, loving, and oftentimes witty eyes, of her heart.
It all started about two months ago when Ms. Eunice's husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. He was the love of her life - her soul mate, her constant companion. He was also her second pair of "eyes", as her failing vision rendered her incapable of doing the simplest of tasks such as reading the mail or putting on a pot of coffee. He, too, was one of my clients, and I had only visited with them a few times before his untimely death. The next visit was to extend my sympathies to a distraught, sorrowful and broken-hearted widow.
The first thing I noticed after Eunice's husband passed was how her pink, rosy cheeks that once held the smiles and laughter of love, had sank to two gray, sallow holes on each side of her face. Her bright, beautiful blue eyes that glowed with school-girl giddiness were now a hazy blue-gray, and sank helplessly behind her tired, wrinkled lids. Eunice was a tall woman, but on that particular visit, she looked as though she had shrank six inches or more; her shoulders drooping lazily and helplessly down her sides. And the crop of perfectly coiffed, snow-white curls that had once adorned her head, were now a straggly and tangled ,spidery-web mess. It was clear that when Eunice's husband passed, he took a big part of Eunice with him.
Eunice's oldest son, and nearest relative made the heart-wrenching, but necessary decision to move Eunice from her modest brick home in the quiet neighborhood in which she lived, to a nearby nursing home, not too far away. It was obvious she needed round-the-clock care, and without any long term care insurance, or additional savings, it was the only logical choice. And although she went willingly, she did so hating every minute of the transition. Moreover, she didn't mind telling anyone who asked how she hated it!
I went to see Ms. Eunice a week after she was moved to the nursing facility. I had promised her I would come and visit and bring her "something chocolate", as she loved anything chocolate as much as me - a woman after my own heart! I made some jumbo chocolate-by-death muffins the night before, put one in a cute Chinese carry-out box, and tied it with a cheery bow. The next day, with all my good intentions in tow, I headed out to the nursing home to visit Ms. Eunice.
As soon as I passed the threshold of the door of the nursing home, my heart sank. Lined up against and down the walls of each hall were wheelchairs occupied with sad, helpless and lonely old people. I passed by an old, elderly black man who smiled weakly at me with what few teeth he had left. And as I smiled cheerfully back, I felt his heart leap just a tad, welcoming the split second of kindness extended to a lonely old man. I focused my eyes straight ahead, to avoid further contact with the others, and found Eunice's room. There was a big, colorful wreath adorning her door, with a pink mesh bath scrubby hanging from the middle of it. (Later, she told me her son had put it there so she could easily distinguish her door from the others down her hall.) I put on my brightest smile and tapped gently on her door. A voice from the other side welcomed me in.
As I softly entered in, not knowing what to expect, I saw Ms. Eunice sitting upright in a recliner with a bulky and cumbersome plastic brace wrapped securely around her upper body. It seems Ms. Eunice had taken a fall right before she was admitted to the nursing home, and had injured her spine. The brace was a critical part of her recovery, and a most necessary apparatus to avoid any further damage to her back or spine. But Ms. Eunice hated that brace almost as much as she hated being in the nursing home. She didn't mind telling anyone that, either!
I sat down in the chair in front of her, and sat the cheery colored gift bag containing the chocolate muffin on the table beside me.
"How you doing today, Ms. Eunice?", I asked with an upbeat tone.
"I'm alright for an old woman, I guess" ,she half-heartedly replied, fiddling nervously with the velcro straps on the brace.
For the next few minutes, we exchanged small talk about her new living quarters, the quality of the food she was served, and the other residents she had met. She told me of her late husband's passing and expressed how very much she loved and missed him - this man who's eyes she had lived through for over forty years.
"He did everything for me" she lamented. "He was a good man". I agreed.
"I wish I could go back and change it all, but I know I can't" ,she sadly stated. Then she made a comment I'll never forget.
"I'm just ready to go onto Glory" she said, tears filling the empty sadness in her hollow eyes.
"You don't mean that, Ms. Eunice", I admonished her.
"Yes, I do. It might be wrong but I'd rather go on and meet the Lord than have to live in this place."
"But you'll get used to it once you make some friends and get adjusted" I consoled her.
"Oh, I don't think I could ever get used to this" she replied back. She glanced over at a picture of her and her husband, that was sitting on the table beside her. I could see her heart taking her back to happier days. Tiny tears filled the corners of her eyes. How she missed him so!
I changed the subject and we talked about her grandchildren and other family members. I reached down and picked up the gift bag.
"Here, I promised you I'd bring you some chocolate. I made these chocolate muffins last nite and brought you one!" Her eyes lit up just a bit, and she forced a faint smile.
"Well good, I was running low on chocolate" she playfully replied.
"Well, you know what I always say - chocolate makes everything better!" She laughed and agreed with a slow nod of the head.
We talked some more about her plans to go see her sisters the next weekend, as well as the visit she had with her grandchildren the weekend before. But as hard as I tried to make her situation seem positive and hopeful, the extreme sadness, pain and loneliness resonated from every word she spoke. Ms. Eunice was so brokenhearted over losing her husband that life through her eyes, was meaningless and intolerable. Her only wish was that she would be "taken to Glory", and soon.
Realizing she didn't get alot of visitors during the week, I made her a promise I would come back and see her again - and bring her some more chocolate. She looked up at me with grief-stricken eyes and bid me to please "do come back."
"You don't have to bring me anything - just come and visit" ,she begged.
I reassured her I would come back - AND bring more chocolate. It wasn't much, but it was a connection we had - one that I intended to protect. I reached over and gave her a hug, She hugged me back best that she could with the awkward contraption she was still wearing.
As I turned to leave, I looked back at this poor, downcast soul, and remembered something my mother always said: "There's a fate worse than death". I know now, what she meant.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO....