Yesterday I arranged to go visit Bette at Georgetown Living. Even though I had been adamant that I had to do this, when I drove to the nursing facility I was kind of angry with myself. Why was I doing this? Why did I insist on this? Having dispensed with my feelings of inadequacy a couple of weeks before and no longer feeling the grief or pain that she felt, I was ready to ignore her problems. Still I went for the visit, so that is one good thing. But while I sat there, I wondered how I could extricate myself from multiple visits.
Bette seemed grateful to see me. She even remembered my name after I told her that I had visited her with Communion several weeks before. Of course, I was wearing my name tag from the Homebound Ministries, so I don’t know if she could read it. We talked – mostly she did – for about 45 minutes, perhaps closer to an hour, when her daughter Carol came to visit. I introduced myself and told her that I had visited her mom with Communion a few weeks ago.
Bette’s life had been really difficult. Her husband had been injured just after World War II ended – he had received severe burns on his legs. His recovery was very difficult and because of the pain that was recurring, had begun drinking. Bette is a convert, having converted after marrying her husband Richard. Both of her children have left the church and according to Bette, place the blame on their parents, even though both children attended Catholic high school. I tried to comfort Bette, telling her to be at peace, that God will take care of everything, and that she should ask Mary’s help. Most of the conversation came from Bette as she is hard of hearing. Near the end of the conversation, she began to cry.
Carol walked me out of the room and spoke quietly with me. I told Carol that my mom and dad had been married during the war as well, and that is what had drawn me to visit her mom again. Carol thanked me for coming and tried to explain her mom’s condition. I told her that my mom had suffered from dementia as well, so I was familiar with it. I told Carol that I would return in a couple of weeks. I do enjoy being with Bette, although like always, I hate how far it is to drive. For someone with dementia, Bette has a tremendous memory – although not short term – and spoke well, as though she had been well educated. I would guess that Bette has only a high school education – in her dad as in my parents a high school education was more valuable than today. Bette was born just a year before my dad was.
Carol apologized that her mom had not received Communion the last couple of times that the minister came. Her mom had said “she felt her soul was dirty.” I suggested to Carol that she call the church office and ask for Father to visit and to anoint her mom. I also wrote to Janet Krall and told her that I had visited and what Carol had said.
I guess what puzzles me is how I can change so quickly. Previously I had thought of this visit as following in the steps of Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the Cross. But when it actually came to “helping Bette carry her cross”, it was a challenge for me, in that I didn’t want to take the time to be of assistance. I wonder if Simon of Cyrene felt the same way – when he was forced by the Romans to help. Some biographies say that as he carried the cross, his heart changed. He and his family became followers of the Risen Lord. I pray that my heart will change as well, that I will not be so negative when it comes to being of assistance to one of God’s children.