Visiting Your Group Home Brings You Smiles

You know you need to have the conversation, but you want to put it off as long as you can. Finally the dreaded words slip from your lips to the rest of the family, “I think it’s time to put mom in a home. She is failing more each day and I just can’t take care of her any longer.”

We have all heard the sad stories of the day we decide to drive our loved ones to be placed in “the home.” Resisting and feeling betrayed, many go kicking and screaming and wondering why. Some folks feel the need to lie and tell them it is just temporary and soon they will be home again. The heartbreak of leaving their homes and all of life’s memories behind can sometimes be just too much to bear.

Is there a way to prepare both our loved ones and even ourselves for this day? Probably the most important thing for us to do is to start with our attitudes. If we could think, “what if this was me? How should I prepare for that day should it ever come into my life?” There is a saying that is simple, yet it is the truth, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

What if we could decide to think this way? How great is this? No more house cleaning, weed pulling, laundry, grocery shopping or cooking! All this will be done for you. Why? Because you have earned it, it’s time for others to wait on you and to care for you. Or, perhaps there is another way. The story that follows took place in Orange County, California.

While visiting a Group Home one day, an older lady named Kay greeted us with a beautiful smile and said, “Welcome, this is my retirement home. Look at the beautiful view out my window. How wonderful that ocean breeze is.” As we got to know Kay over the months that lie ahead, we discovered that she had been quite an intellect in her day with an amazing career in the sciences. She had even been invited to travel to Oxford to do research there. We were quite impressed with her resume. Her parents had been gone for some time and her only brother, a doctor, had been killed in a car accident. She had never married and had no children. She had some serious ailments, but never mentioned them. She was quite alone in this world, yet her penetrating blue eyes sparkled with life and enthusiasm. She was so proud of the fact that she never had to wear glasses as she told us blue eyes were far better than brown ones. She never complained about anything, but instead was always positive and happy. At the time we met her, she had been in the home for several years and saw the others there as her dear friends.

What, do you suppose, makes the difference between one that goes into a Group Home with fear, sadness or even anger and one like Kay? There must be something deep inside that puts joy into one’s life that is missing in the other.

Kay had a desk she loved sitting at most of the time when she was up. We would roll her wheel chair up as close as it would go and she would show us her work. She worked every day, drawing and coloring pictures or writing letters. We never really knew who these letters were to because they never seemed to get mailed. But of most importance was the cubbyhole that held her old and well-worn Bible. She talked about God and how wonderful he was. She told us of her life of faith and about the church she use to attend. The mystery was solved. She had no worries or fear of the unknown because she knew for certain that she would one-day rest in the arms of God. It’s funny how things sometimes work out. We visited Kay every week for a long time with the intention of being her friends and cheering her up. In the car, on the way back home, we would talk about how glad we were to have seen her – not because we had done a good deed, but because she had cheered us up. She made us happy just by being there, in her little room, with her.

The joy Kay exuded came from knowing she was loved and cared for by her heavenly father. She needed nothing more because she knew she would one day see the gates of heaven… she would one day see her loved ones again… she would one day see Jesus face to face. Knowing this makes anything this life might throw at you bearable because you know this life is not all there is. In the Bible there is a verse in the book of James that many people can’t understand, but Kay did. It begins like this, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2 NIV) How can anyone have joy when going through trials? The joy is always there with you because you know one day you will live a life unending, a beautiful, pain free life. There will be no loneliness, no sorrow, and no tears; for all of that will have passed away.

As Kay became weaker and could no longer leave her bed we would read her Bible out-loud to her. What a surprise when she began quoting it from memory as we read. She knew the long passage by heart. She knew it by heart because she had planted it there long ago and now it gave her comfort.

On our next visit, and the one that turned out to be our last, we were told she was dying. We prayed with her, held her hands, and told her we loved her. When we were leaving, she said, “Thank you, I love you too,” and her blue eyes followed us until we were out of sight. Those were her very last moments on this earth. She was at complete peace. If we love God and live according to his will for us, he promises us peace. Everyone can have this same hope if we believe in him.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts an your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)  This scripture is a picture of Kay, the way she lived her life and the way she passed from it.

There is so much joy in the hope of heaven. As the days pass by and the future looms uncertain, make it your goal to know where you and your family will be going. You see, there is one more Group Home waiting and it’s called Heaven. This will be the final home of all those that have gone before, of all those that know and love the Lord. Make sure you will be going there too.