Eulogizing Life

My old guys love homemade food...any homemade food. But it's Strawberry season and the old guys love strawberries it seems, more than anything else.

They were making quilt squares when I saw them Tuesday, sitting around the table, some sleeping, others just hanging on to their fabric pieces and staring past them at something or some time none of us were privvy to.

The assistant director and I have bonded in one of those soul deep ways that transcends who we are on the outside. We love our old guys. She likes to tell me that on her worst day, coming to work always makes her feel better- that they give more to her than she does to them...but I don't know about that.

Once she and the director drove Pearl all the way to the beach...five hours away, and stayed in a hotel, just because blind Pearl had never "seen" the ocean. That picture is taped to the side of the assistant A.D's file cabinet.

Last month, when we lost so many, the Assistant A.D had to give their eulogies at the memorial service. The hospice chaplain was late and as it so often does, the job fell to Benny.

I had slipped into the room, filled with residents and family...but oddly enough, not staff. Benny's eyes met mine. In front of everyone she said, "I don't know if I can do this y'all, but I'm gonna try."

I have never heard anyone so eloquently capture the essential spirit of a human being like Benny does.

Last week Benny sat in her office, crying with me. She was mad at the staff for overlooking her partner, the Activity Director. "She's done so much for them, and now, when she needs them, they can't even get up off their asses to sign a damned card!"

And then she cried for "Papa Franks." "I don't know if I can let myself get that close to anyone again. He was like my father, Nancy. He was!"

But we are too alike, me and Benny. We will look into a resident's eyes and take them into our hearts without a second thought about the cost later- when we lose them. I tell her this. I tell her we have been given such a gift to have these old guys in our lives and that there is never a guarantee, with anyone we love, that they will be around tomorrow. "We will all die," I tell her.

But I don't tell her that when I go, I hope she does the eulogy.

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