It’s been a year since my ten-year-old daughter and I started visiting “Annie” at the nursing home. Avery felt compelled to “adopt” Annie when she learned she hadn’t had a visitor in years. In the beginning, Annie smiled all the time and shared fond memories of her past. We would take her to Bingo, paint with her, and Avery would sing to her. Now Avery just sings. On a good day, Annie will hum along to her favorite Elvis song. But mostly, she just listens; the music makes her breathe easier.
I hoped by some small miracle she’d be lucid enough for me to thank her when we visited this week. I wanted to tell her she prepared a little girl to comfort her grandfather in his final days. I’ll never forget how Avery drew close to Grandpa Ben although he looked unfamiliar, sick, and in pain. Avery went right up to his bedside with a big smile. Avery was not scared. She was not scared at all.
She was prepared. And I knew we had Annie to thank for that.
Unfortunately, Annie was incoherent when we arrived on Thursday. We ushered her off to a quiet corner of the nursing home and Avery got out her guitar. The first song she played was “You Alone” – the last song her grandfather heard – the song she played at his funeral, so bravely and boldly in a room full of mourners, her voice strong, never wavering. She was prepared.
As she began to sing to Annie, I felt myself becoming emotional. I will never be able to hear that song without crying. But there she was, singing it with a smile and strong enough to be heard over the noise of the nurses’ station. When she was finished, Annie sat up a little straighter and said the only sentence she'd say while we were there. She said, “I love to sing.”
Annie soon fell asleep and Avery suggested we visit the woman who our cat Paisley curled up with on Pet Day recently. When we stepped into Mama J’s room, she smiled so wide that all her teeth showed. She remembered us and our “little lamb” that comforted her that day. She was delighted to see Avery had a guitar.
“Would you like me to play for you?” Avery asked. Mama J nodded enthusiastically.
As Avery played her grandpa’s song, I could see Mama J’s astonishment, her tears, her joy, her disbelief.
When Avery finished, Mama J explained that she’d been feeling blue all day and had looked for a song on the television to comfort her. “And just look what came through the door! A beautiful child prepared with a song to lift this 96-year-old woman’s heart! Don’t anybody tell me God don’t answer prayers!” she exclaimed.
She used that word. And then she said, “Tell your people about this.”
I think she means you.
So I’ve thought long and hard about what this means for you, and I think it is this:
When forced to go outside your comfort zone,
When faced with questions that have no easy answers,
When given a story you didn’t ask for,
When met a battle you never wanted to fight,
Instead of saying things like,
I am suffering.
I am being punished.
I am sick and tired of this.
Say this instead:
I am preparing.
I am preparing to serve an important purpose.
And perhaps one day, you’ll walk right up to something scary, sad, and unfamiliar and you’ll know just what to do. With a voice brave and strong, you’ll deliver a message no one else can deliver. And to those who hear it, it will sound like an anthem of hope, an answered prayer, a blanket of comfort.
Thank you for preparing for that moment.
Something tells me it will be glorious.
Dear friends, I posted this story on The Hands Free Revolution Facebook page yesterday not expecting the amazing response it would receive. I decided to post it here on the blog for those who are not on Facebook. I feel so blessed to share these experience with you. After we said our goodbyes, we heard Mama J shout to no one in particular, “Now that’s what I call LOVE!” I smiled, knowing exactly what book I will be taking to her on our next visit! I am thinking Avery and might read some passages to her. When I wrote ONLY LOVE TODAY, I made every effort to fill it with the affirmations that built up the souls of every special education student I ever taught — affirmations I give my daughters, my husband, my friends and colleagues every day. I bet there are some in there for Mama J and for anyone you know going through a stressful time and needs some “soul-building words.”
After writing the book, I talked to my sister-in-law Stacie about how I could make these affirmations more accessible to people. Together Stacie and I came up with “Made With Love Lunch Notes.” Stacie’s sister-in-law Kristyn of Oliver's Twist designed them. When Stacie sent me the initial designs, I cried. I was reminded of the little square notes my mom left on my pillow on days she worked late. Those written affirmations gave me assurance that I've carried with me my whole life. That is my hope for these little cards. The set includes 25 cards with soul-building words from my new book. They are the perfect size to tuck in a lunchbox, tape on a mirror, lay on a desk, or leave on a driver's seat or pillowcase. Notes come packaged in a 4×6 muslin bag and are blank on the back if you wish to add something more. Click here to purchase & see all twenty-five cards.
Thank you for bringing my words to life through loving actions. I cherish your support and presence more than words can ever express, my friends of The Hands Free Revolution.