“Could you come in here for a minute?” I heard Martha ask as I rounded the corner.
“Sure, what do you need?” I replied.
Opening her closet this 80+ year-old lady pulled out an outfit. “I’d like you to take this. I think it would look cute on you.” I didn’t know quite what to say. As you might well imagine, this outfit was not something I would ever think of wearing. However, I took it and thanked Martha very much for thinking of me. I put the outfit in the laundry room of the facility and asked the staff to put it back in her room in a few days. Since this was a memory care unit I was sure Martha would forget she gave it to me; and she may even start accusing someone of stealing it.
Martha liked gum. I chewed gum quite often and Martha would usually comment about the gum. It was funny how she would comment, but not come right out and ask for any. I’d normally say, “Would you like a stick of gum?” Martha would always reply, “Sure!”
It wasn’t long and hospice was called in because Martha was dying. Over the years I’ve been with several people as they were dying and all are not the same. Martha was having a very hard time. I walked by her room and I could hear the hospice nurse trying to calm her down. It was obvious nothing was working. My heart went out to Martha and the hospice nurse. I said a quick prayer and walked in the room. I quietly walked over to Martha’s bed and put my hand gently on her chest. I bent down close to her and whispered her name. Martha immediately became calm. Her breathing relaxed and she stopped yelling.
I looked at the hospice nurse and asked her what happened. The nurse said that Martha, though she didn’t know my name, recognized my voice, my touch, the smell of my perfume, and the smell of the gum. These were things that she recognized, and the sound and smell of them brought her comfort.
I’ve found that it’s these little acts of kindness that mean so much and add meaning to life. Showing care and compassion to someone, even if they don’t know your name, brought comfort that day to a dying friend.