Monday afternoon I visited a Pilgrim who lives in the nursing home here at Pilgrim Place. Emily is a 90-year-old nurse who has spent many years working in South America. Emily is Baptist, but assured me as I was gratuitously introduced to her as a Catholic that “we all love the same God”
Emily told me about her neighbor, Laura, who had lived just across the hall from her. Laura was Catholic and told Emily that when she was growing up Catholics really weren't allowed to read the bible on their own. (Yes, we remember those days when fear of incorrect interpretation limited our exposure to Scripture to the readings at daily or weekly Mass.) . I did not ask, but I am led to believe that Laura had not lived at Pilgrim Place prior to her moving to their nursing home. The nursing home does not have the same residency requirements as the other areas of the campus.
Now, retired, with several chronic issues and needing the supportive services of a nursing home, Laura wanted to read the bible. She ordered a large print edition of both the NIV and the King James Version. To her great distress, Laura could not read either volume because of her advanced macular degeneration. Not to be stopped, Laura asked Emily if she would read the Scriptures to her. “She was so hungry for the Word,” Emily told me. So regularly, Laura came to Emily’s room to hear Laura read the Scriptures to her. At Laura’s request, each visit began with the two of them holding hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
“We had read Matthew, Mark, Luke and almost all of John when Laura fell and had to be hospitalized.” The fall and Laura’s general health condition resulted in a rapid decline and she was soon placed in hospice care. “I went to visit Laura; I believe she was in a coma, and I did not know if she could hear me, though we believe hearing is one of the last senses we have. I put my hand on her heart and recited the Lord’s Prayer. I hope she heard it.”
Ann Lamott says in her recent book, STITCHES, that at the heart of meaning is relationships.. What profound and sacred purpose and meaning both Emily and Laura found through this neighborly act of asking for assistance and in the act of providing it. Both are gifts. Both women were gifted in the exchange.