This is part two of a series about Patrick who enrolled in hospice at age fifty-five with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In part one, “Open your eyes; you’re not looking at me”; Patrick declared, “I’m just a shell of the man I used to be”; and we both claimed, “I didn’t always look like this.” We discussed how people want to be seen as persons, not just as patients.
Patrick is wheelchair bound and has lived in assisted living facilities since age forty; and at the present facility for seven years. I love visiting Patrick and the other twenty-three residents there. They’re hospitable, likeable folks. There’s Penny who always asks me, “Did you bring Patrick his Big Mac?” And there’s Darlene who you would think works there; she’s always helping other residents or staff with something. Then there’s Glen with his “Duck Dynasty” beard. One day Becky, the administrator, was braiding some of the female residents’ hair, and I told Glen, “I have a five dollar bill in my pocket that I’ll give you if you let Becky French- braid your beard.” He just smiled and shook his head “no”. I extended my offer again today; and even raised it to ten dollars; I believe he’s seriously thinking about it.
I’m so impressed by the intimacy between the staff and residents, that I asked Becky how she accomplished it. She replied, “I was training to be a nursing home administrator and was almost finished; but when I was doing my internship I noticed that the administrators didn’t get to know the patient’s very well. So I told my dad who owned a group home, ‘Dad, I just can’t do it! I want to know the people like you do dad. I want to take them to ball games like you.’ Everybody in dad’s group home called him dad.
It doesn’t make any difference how the people ended up here. This is their home and they deserve a chance. Most of them don’t have anybody else. Everyone wants attention and to be loved; and if I can provide comfort to them, then why not do it!” Susan, a staff member whispered, “She spoils them”. Becky continued, “It’s just the right thing to do. The way I look at it, we only get one shot in this world; and we’ll have to answer for how we treat people. And the staff here is always doing special things for the residents on their own. If Patrick wants an apple pie then Susan will bake one for him, even if she isn’t feeling well.” Susan added, “And all the staff members are different and they do different things for the residents.” Patrick stated, “That’s right, and I tell them, ‘You work here and you use your own money to do things for us!’”
Becky recalled, “A few months ago Patrick had a bad spell. I didn’t think he was going to make it, so I set up my office in his room. If the other residents needed me they had to come to Patrick’s room. Joyce (another resident) came to Patrick’s door and asked if she could pray for him”. Patrick added, “Joyce is my buddy”. Becky continued, “Several of the other residents have been there for Patrick too. The people here watch out for each other.” Patrick added, “That’s true”.
I visited Patrick shortly after he pulled out of his “bad spell” about five months ago, and he reported, “I’m still feeling pretty bad.” I admitted, “I wish I could do more for you “and I asked, “Is there anything I could get for you? He replied, “I can’t think of anything”, but then added, “I sure would like to have some Three Musketeers bars; I love them and I haven’t had any for years.” I brought Patrick a bag on my next visit and he exclaimed, “I can’t believe you did that for me!” Then he immediately ripped open the bag and scarfed down a couple and exclaimed, “Boy that tasted so good!” So I’ve been taking Patrick a bag of Three Musketeers bars every week since.
When I reviewed the content of this column with Patrick, Becky, Susan and some of the residents today for their approval; I told Patrick that I decided to change the title from “Life’s Simple Pleasures” to “All for one, and one for all””. I explained: “In light of the conversation we’ve had here today it seems fitting. And last night, while writing, I thought about you asking me for Three Musketeers bars and I got curious about how it got its name. So I looked it up. I found out that the Three Musketeers bar was introduced in 1932 and only cost five cents. It originally had three pieces of candy in one package, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. And it was marketed as the candy bar that was so big that it could be shared with two friends; hence, the name Three Musketeers”. I asked Patrick, “Do you remember the movie, “The Three Musketeers”; how they would raise and cross their swords and pledge, ‘One for all, and all for one’? Well, it kind of reminds me of this place. And I don’t think I’ll ever look at a Three Musketeers bar the same again. Sometimes a candy bar can be more than just a candy bar.” Patrick replied, “That’s neat, I like that.”
“We have many members in one body but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them…let us use it in our ministering…” (Romans 12:3-8)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525