Wilma was in her late 80’s when referred to hospice for renal failure. I could tell by the way she looked at me that her trust had to be earned. She admitted, “I’ve been alone and depressed much of my life. I’ve never had any real friends. I’ve always been a loner. When three or four people were together I usually ended up sitting and saying nothing.” Wilma was perplexing, lonely, but at the same time, content. It just didn’t make sense but I guess most of us are living contradictions to some degree.
Wilma reflected on her childhood in South Philadelphia. “My mother was Irish Catholic and really strict. She would as just as soon slap your face as look at you. I can’t ever remember my mother putting her arms around me and telling me she loved me. She never showed me any affection. So I married young to escape from home.” But Wilma soon discovered that freedom can feel a lot like responsibility. She admitted, “It was hard.” Then suddenly, without warning, Wilma’s mind and spirit were transported to a previous time and place. And I just can’t find adequate words to describe the radiance of her countenance, the all encompassing smile, as she reflected on the two people who were to her, like an oasis in a desert.
Even though Wilma’s first husband left her, her mother-in-law remained faithful. Wilma and her two minor children lived with her mother-in-law in her boarding house. Wilma’s mother-in-law babysat for the children while Wilma worked. Wilma described her mother-in-law; “She was educated. She went to high school and then to business college. She was strict but gentle. She never raised her voice but she wouldn’t put up with any shenanigans either. If you pushed her she was fiery. She made the borders sign their names and if it wasn’t ‘Mr. and Mrs.______’, they weren’t allowed to stay.” Wilma added, “When I cried about how hard it was to raise children on my own, she would tell me, ‘Wilma, don’t cry, pray. Jesus will comfort you.’ So I did.”
The other oasis in Wilma’s desert was a Catholic Sister, her elementary school teacher. Wilma reminisced, “She always told us, ‘Jesus is your friend. Talk to him about your work, about your papers, your concerns.’ So I did. I’ll never forget what she told me. Now when I tell people that my friend lives with me they ask me, ‘who?’ and I say, ‘Jesus’. Their jaws drop and they don’t know what to say. We don’t know what Jesus looks like but if he were standing in that doorway I would know who He is.”
Wilma’s loneliness with contentment makes sense now, doesn’t it? She’s found the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), the consonant that produces harmony in dissonant lives.
Is your life characterized by dissonance, loneliness, fear, stress or discouragement? I want you to know that what Jesus did for Wilma he can do for you. After all, that’s why He came. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to comfort all that mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-356-2525.