“Have you ever done this type of work before…?” The facility director asked with optimism.
“Some, but not professionally.” I responded. “…But I love doing this kind of work.”
I was desperate to find something during a critical transitional time so it didn’t matter what type of work I would be doing. 3rd shift CNA-type work was acceptable as long as it filled the need I had been looking for.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I took the position. I had one co-worker tell me, “This can be a disgusting job if you aren’t used to it…” My only thought was, what’s so disgusting about caring for others? It wasn’t the job or work that bothered me. These were human beings, people who had families that loved them and a life story. Another co-worker said, “Don’t try to get too close to the residents….places like this are where people come to die.”
You are kidding me right? What a heartless thing to say.
But, many did die…on my watch.
After spending some time with the residents, I began to wonder what their lives used to be. People change drastically when they grow old. Being a caregiver on the graveyard shift left me ‘getting to know’ the residents mostly through their pictures. In one of the pictures was a resident dancing in the arms of her husband with her eyes closed, smiling with such an infectious bliss, one would think it was the happiest moment in her life. But she deteriorated fast; it was painful to watch her in a catatonic state, barely blinking and not moving in her bed. That was very common on the memory care unit I was primarily assigned to.
After merely a few hours working in the facility, I could feel how lonely most of these people were. I find it too difficult to imagine how friends and family of a deceased resident could recall their fondest memories at the funeral while completely omitting the time they left the resident by themselves when they needed company the most.
On the random occasion when I would pick up a day shift, I noticed it was not uncommon for a resident to sit quietly by themselves looking out the window waiting for love and interaction with someone who cared to give them time. “This is Heaven’s waiting room…” one nurse said, as I remember a time sadly gazing at the woman who always kept her Bible and cross close to her side in the wheelchair with a lonely hollow glare in her eyes. However, her soul was anything but hollow.
…Heaven’s waiting room…? I thought…
Isn’t life a ‘waiting room’ for Heaven?
I imagine being ‘one of them’ – completely dependent on someone else to take care of me; how it must feel to completely surrender your independence because you just can’t do it on your own.
I remember back when I realized I just couldn’t do it on my own; when I needed to surrender my independence to The One who I could completely depend on. I wasn’t elderly, and I wasn’t needing someone to feed, dress, change and bath me. Actually, I needed more than that. I was in need of a Savior; a rescuer. Not a caregiver.
From the perspective of time, Heaven is eternal, everlasting, never-ending. Life is not. We enter into it about as fast as we leave it (and often the same way). God knew it would be that way; He knew it would be temporary, which is why He provided a Savior in Jesus Christ as a bridge to eternal life. He knew that in His waiting room we would experience fear, anxiety, anticipation, questions, anger and frustration. But he also knew we would experience courage, peace, patience, joy, purpose and love. He knew that some people would spend less time waiting than others (realizing that people who pass early in life just had an appointment with Him much sooner than the rest). And while we may not like that reality (right now), it isn’t the last time we will ever see them, because we have an appointment with Him too, someday – which will bring us back to them.
“Death is a lot less scary when you have something to look forward to…” I remember whispering in her ear when she was approaching her final days ‘in the waiting room.’
It was hard not to get attached. I love(d) these residents dearly.
Every interaction was a reminder for me not to take my days for granted. Boy was that ‘desperation’ job a blessing. And as we sit in the real ‘waiting rooms’ of life, faced with the unknown of our present (and future), we are reminded of the promises God has for those who love Him:
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be men (and women) of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
…and always remember in the waiting rooms of life that there is nothing ‘unknown’ to God.