KOH2RVA: Day 112

snow-covered-fieldDo you know that song, “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go”? Yesterday that’s what I did with my family, except we went over the mountain and through the woods to grandmother’s nursing home.

On a good day it’s about a three-hour drive from Richmond to Franklin, West Virginia, and yesterday was a good day. My daughter Ellie is visiting from New York and Catherine is home for her winter break. We all piled into the car yesterday morning (along with Ellie’s two dogs) and headed for the hills.

We had plenty to talk about on the way, and as we got off the Interstate and into the country there was plenty to see. There was snow on the ground! The roads were clear but the fields on both sides were glazed like a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Ellie saw a horse-drawn Amish buggy whizzing down the road. Catherine saw a deer head hanging from a tree (yikes!). We went over Shenandoah mountain through so many hairpin curves that everybody began to feel a little queasy, but from the top the views were breathtaking.

When we finally got to Franklin we were dismayed to learn that the entire nursing home was under quarantine because of the flu, and were told at the front desk that we wouldn’t be able to visit my parents. I said, “But I called yesterday! But we just drove three hours! But my daughter has come from New York!” And while I was protesting the director of nursing happened along and said that my mother, at least, wasn’t showing any symptoms and could come to the family room for a visit.

So, that’s what we had: a two-hour visit with my mother, who entertained us the whole time. She had us laughing like a stand-up comedian. When it was time to go I asked if we could walk around to the side of the building and at least wave to my dad through the window. One of the nurses said she would go to his room and open the curtain. So, off we went, hiking around the side of the nursing home through ankle-deep snow.

As we went Christy reminded the girls of those days when they used to visit the nursing home in Wingate, North Carolina, where we lived at the time. She would take them to be “spirit lifters,” and Ellie, at least, spent a lot of time painting fingernails, which the ladies there seemed to love.

I thought about how that was one more way of bringing heaven to earth. Long before our year-long, every-member mission trip to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, Christy and the girls were figuring out that when one person shares the love of Christ with another heaven touches down—however briefly–wherever you are.

And that’s what we had with my dad yesterday: a very brief moment.

The nurse pulled back the curtain and the four of us stood at the window to see Dad, lying in his bed, smiling up at us. Just because it seemed like the thing to do I began to sing, “We wish you a merry Christmas,” and the family joined in, and then, to our surprise, we could see Dad joining in, singing along with us. The nurse opened his window just a crack so we could hear him and he could hear us, and when we were finished singing we told him that we loved him and blew kisses and waved goodbye.

That was it.

That was all the nurse had time for but probably all my dad had strength for. He’s very weak these days. And to leave him with the image of four impromptu carolers wishing him a merry Christmas and a happy new year was probably about the best we could have done.

And so we drove back to Richmond, satisfied by the visit, having brought the Kingdom of Heaven a little closer to Franklin, West Virginia.

Today, I’m back in this city I love, wondering how I can be a “spirit lifter” here. What about you? Is there somebody whose spirit you can lift, even if you have to go over the river and through the woods to do it?

6 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 112

  1. That was wonderful…brought back memories of my own parents, who are now in heaven. We used to sing “Over the river and through the woods…” as we drove from VA to NC to visit my grandparents in the winter time, often with snow all around us. And my mom was quite the comedian…always kept the kids laughing. I traveled from PA to Richmond this December, and enjoyed visiting your church and your Christmas concert with my son, Josh, and his family.

  2. What memories your story today brought back — from Jan 1969 until January 1979 when she went on to real heaven, my mother lived in a nursing home because of her Altzheimers which hit her much earlier than it generally appears. My girls and I remember many times when we went to see not only her, but many of the folks on the hall who had no visitors at all and were thrilled to see two 4 & 7 year old chatterboxes! The girls and their grandfather would spend some time with almost everyone on the floor; early Mother would join them on their walks, humming and singing the hymns she had often led as the pastor’s wife in the little churches where Daddy served. Even after she didn’t know us any more as her own, she recognized us as loved ones who visited often, and her face would light up with joy as we entered the room she shared with three other ladies. It is really so sad when folks are left with no one to care and share their memories — Sandy and Donna early learned how much pleasure just a smile and a listening ear can mean to lonely people.

  3. I am blessed to hear news of your parents. I’m so glad you had a good visit with your Mom. I’m so sad about your Dad, but it is so characteristic of him to “sing along”. In the few times I was with them, I came to love them both. Love to you, Christy & the girls.

  4. You are a spirit lifter for all of us.. This brought tears to my eyes. I visited my Mom in an upstate NY nursing home 12/12-17. My daughter and her three little ones were with me. My sister, her primary caergiver, and her family were there, so the group numbered 12. Mom was fairly alert both days we were with her. That was something that does not happen often. It was hard to see her so debilitated, but at least she is able to get up and around every day in her new geri chair that seemed custom made for her. It’s hard being so far away (500 miles). Wish we could get there more often. At the age of 91, she is the longest living one in her generation. We were just happy the visit went so well.
    Thanks again for your kind and loving spirit.

  5. Thanks for this tender story which touched me deeply. I recall many visits from Maryland to Louisville, KY to visit both our mothers their last years, and
    Bill usually lead us in singing and they always joined in with tears in their eyes. I now send love to you and Christy, to all of you.

  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I feel so blessed to have my parents living close and that they continue to enjoy good heath. Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary! Much love to all of you.

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