Years stretch behind me. I can still remember my first visit to a nursing home. Twelve years old and timidly walking down the long corridors. Searching for my grandmother’s room. A stroke forced her into this sterile world.
The stench almost overpowering. Cold floors. Bare white walls.
Silent souls sitting in wheel chairs lining the hallways. Some sleeping. Others looking at the floor. And yet some with pleading eyes hoping for a smile, maybe even a kind word.
I was still a child, and yet I could feel the pain. Each sat alone. Lost in memories of sunny days, wrapped in love. Now old and forgotten.
Finally, finding my grandma’s room. She sat in bed waiting. Waiting for love.
I ran with open arms to hold her. Brushed her beautiful white hair. Gently rubbed lotion on her dry hands and cracked feet. Shared funny stories from school and home. We laughed. Promised I would come again soon.
I came every week until Grandma grew strong enough to walk through the doors. She traveled home. Home with color, joy and laughter. She stayed four years.
Heartbreaking decision at 87. She couldn’t take care of herself. She rode in silence again to the nursing home. Bravely walking down the dark halls, she saw them. Silent souls crying for love.
Finding her room she laid her Bible on her night stand. She had stood on the Word all her life. She would continue to stand.
With each visit, she smiled and said, “I need to cheer up the old people here. I need to touch them. They feel better when I touch them.” She knew their pain. She searched for a purpose in this cold existence.
One by one she touched hands, caressed faces. She told them how pretty they looked. Straightened dresses. Adjusted pillows. Spoke gentle words. She loved.
Mere months passed. Grandma fell and broke her hip. She fell asleep in Jesus’ arms.
I cried and searched for purpose without her love. I asked God to help me through the pain. I remembered the sad and lonely faces lining the walls. I remembered a grandma who touched and spoke.
Alone, I walked down the dark and smelly hallways to give love. Rubbed lotion on deformed hands. Touched faces etched with lines. Hugged bent shoulders. Played the piano.
Asked about memories. Each had a story. Joys and struggles. Loves gained and lost. Hymns sung. Their wisdom giving me understanding beyond my years. They hold treasure, but don’t pour it out unless asked. Promised I would come again soon.
Each week I walked through the heavy doors. I came to give love. Came to tell them they weren’t forgotten. Jesus knows their name. He sent me to show them He still cares. Walked away with gold and silver given to me in whispers.
Each stop in my journey I search for the silent souls. They wait in hallways alone. Waiting for love. Feeling forgotten. Jesus knows their name. I walk away wiser. I come to give, and receive jewels in return.
And now I walk in with my own daughter. She hasn’t seen the waiting. She looks down not knowing what to do. I reach out and touch. Their beautiful faces revealing mysteries only experience offers.
My daughter smiles. Takes a wrinkled hand in her own. She asks questions. Wise words fill her ears.
She is learning to give love. She grasps each precious soul isn’t forgotten. Jesus knows their name.
We promise we will come again soon.
Photography copyright © by Jane Carole Stein