“Oh no, I don’t have my car keys.” The older woman’s face creased with worry. She moaned and rubbed her forehead in consternation. My heart ached for her.
I got up from the table where I had been spooning pureed food into my mother’s mouth and crossed the room. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, please help me. I don’t seem to have my car keys.” She blinked back tears.
“It’s OK,” I said. “They’re in your room, safe in your purse.”
“They are?” Relief crossed her face. “Oh, thank you.”
“Why don’t you go on and eat now. Your keys are safe.”
She nodded and picked up a fork as I made my way back to Mom’s table.
It didn’t last. Memory doesn’t stick with most of the residents at the nursing home.
Throughout the meal, nurses and CNAs assured this woman that her keys were safe, but she worried herself into an anxious pool of tears. The anxiety overwhelmed her until she couldn’t even think about eating. Finally, her CNA moved her to the table where she fed other residents, trying to coax some food into the woman. That’s when another resident, Martha, rolled up in her wheelchair.
“Why are you crying?” Martha asked, concern crossing her face.
The frantic woman didn’t answer.
“You should eat,” Martha told her. “You wouldn’t want to lose that pretty white hair of yours.”
Still the woman cried and wouldn’t eat.
Martha watched for a while and made encouraging statements, but the crying woman didn’t respond. After several minutes, Martha asked again, “Why are you crying?”
“I’m all alone,” the crying woman wailed.
“No, you’re not,” Martha assured her in a kind voice. “You’re never alone because Jesus Christ is always with you.”
I started to smile at Martha’s sweet response, but she wasn’t finished. In a sharp, loud voice, she said, “Now stop crying!” Satisfied that her duty was done, she wheeled on down the hall.
I had to chuckle. Such kindness and concern canceled out by a reprimand. How often do we do that to each other? Comfort them in their worry or grief only to turn around and say, “That’s that, move along now.” We even use scripture to support it. Afterall, if we have Christ we should count all things as joy. Right?
But sometimes we need time to grieve. Even Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb before calling him forth. Grief and worry is normal, and we should allow others to experience it in their own way.
But my wheelchair-bound friend, Martha, did have a point in her own abrupt way. The frantic woman had spent the last thirty minutes fretting over non-existent keys. Her anxiety paralyzed her until she couldn’t eat or think of anything else. Her worry disturbed many of the other residents seated around her. It’s OK for us to worry or grieve, but if you feel the vise of worry closing you down, freezing you to the point of inaction, then the admonishment, “Jesus Christ is always with you. Now stop crying!” is valid advice. Martha reminded me that sometimes we get so caught up in our problems that we fail to acknowledge His power. We carry the burdens on our shoulders rather than trusting in His ability to carry the load.
Does this sound like you? I pray you don’t beat yourself up if it does. We’re fallible humans and sometimes we need the unusual words of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s to show us the way. Where do you turn when the worry threatens to overtake you? Do you succomb to the paralysis of fear or strive forward?
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1