Wisdom Story – 139

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

“I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind.

“I already decided to love it … It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away … just for this time in my life.”



  1. Lynda says

    What a great way to start a day when we are expecting a huge dump of snow and our attitude is one of the few things over which we have control.

    “Thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives.” Jalaluddin Rumi

  2. says

    With a group of friends, many of whose parents are facing the decisions of aging with great resistance (you don’t want to know), I am engaged in a now months-long discussion of how we might help them and how we might begin to consider moving into our own futures with some semblance of grace.

    Of course, this applies for now as well.

    And that’s why my Lent is all about the interface between desire and Ignatian and indifference.

  3. Stephen says

    I am a little disturbed by Jan’s comment “I wish more senors had this attitude.” As someone who has visited many family members in a nursing home and has spent time caring for the elderly — I find it offensive. I also find the post to be offensive and insulting. Nursing homes are often neglectful, letting people sit in urine and bowl movements. Some stare into space…they have no family to visit them. They are alone. Been dumped there like some stray animal. Some aren’t as bad, but still not ideal. I’m sorry, but I hope none of you ever have to experience being left in a nursing home. The only thing worse would be to be left in a nursing home and have someone give you this post to read!

    God bless you and enlighten you…

    • Tim says

      Take a deep breath, Jan’s thoughts are on target, no insensitive words are meant here. The only edit I would suggest is that I wish more of us had that same attitude. This is a good story and an awesome reminder to everyone.

      Have a great weekend. For our friends in New England, stay inside this weekend and snuggle…

  4. says

    Unlike Stephen, I have no family members in a nursing home (well, my consuegro is, but I have never visited him and I understand he is well taken care of in a Catholic nursing home in NYC) and have never visited anyone in a nursing home.
    So I took this Wisdom Story as addressed to and welcomed it because I do believe that one’s attitude to life decides a lot about the texture of life. I do feel grumpy at life sometimes and then life never fails to ‘grump’ back at me.
    I certainly could always be more cheerful and this story leads me in the right direction.
    Thank you.

  5. Mike Leach says

    What a wonderful lesson! I’ve spent time, not as a patient, in many nursing homes and have seen what a challenge it is to have that holy attitude in many of them. It’s also a challenge to have that holy attitude when we are healthy, when life is free of problems, when life is full of good. The monkey mind throws together anxious, worrisome, fearful, angry thoughts. We all need to be awake and aware and interested in the good of God that has no shadow or variation. Mrs. Jones is a role model for all of us, no matter our material circumstances.

  6. Katy says

    There is so much more to this story. I read it first I think last year on CatholicIreland Lent. The Old Lady goes on to recount what she has learnt in her 90 years, here are a couple more lines as example:
    “I believe we are responsible for what we do no matter how we feel.”
    “I believe that you either control your attitude or it controls you.”
    I believe that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you are down, will be the ones to help you get back up.”

    and so it goes on.

    I found it a very touching story and saved it to type up. I would look it up if you can. It was titled “The old lady in waiting.”

    I would also like to add that my Mum was in a Nursing Home for 12 years. She received wonderful care from the Nursing Staff. She had all her faculties and the home was within walking distance for my Dad to visit and she received visits from us; her children several times a week along with grandchildren. She was not dumped there (I take offence at people who make judgements on this matter as no-one except those involved know the circumstances). My Mum was my Dad’s priority in life; ALL his life. The home had something going on every day for the residents to join in if they wish to. They were even able to take care of Mum when she was diagnosed with cancer so she would’nt have to go in a hospice. I remember talking to one of the workers about how good she was with my Mum and she said “she treats the residents as though they were her own Mum and Dad.
    I do take on board some places are as Stephen suggests but we were THANK GOD, very fortunate that Mum was able to get into this particular Nursing Home.

  7. Emma says

    I can’t accept that, we are always called to graciously accept life’s circumstances or surroundings. We, of course, have a choice to “accept those things we cannot change ” and should pray for “the wisdom to know the difference “, but there are times when we must accept the emotional upheaval inherent in jumping into the fray and the consequences that result. Drone strikes, cluster bombs, a government that puts out a green light on its own citizenry comes to mind. Watching Brennan’s confirmation hearings this morning I witnessed some in attendance smiling at each other as they discussed these killings. Then heard them deny this had anything, at all to do with Constitutional Scope. Then there were the grandmothers from Code Pink, shouting out for the innocents (six of them carted off to jail) . I just can’t ever picture myself “going quietly into the night “. And when I get to that age, or perhaps sooner, I want purple shoes and a red hat! I guess I was just meant to be an agitator. But, I’m at peace with that. GO GRANNY, GO!!

  8. Ron says

    Mrs. Jones does have an atitude I admire.

    Stephen, a PFO member, I know from experience, had valid points.

    After having visited the nursing home my mother and father were in for three, four years, Stephen’s comments set my feet firmly on the ground and encouraged me to pray that I will never end up in a nursing home. Most are terribble and Mrs. Jones, to my knowledge, does not reside in real-life nursing home.

    I hope I die before ever having to be admitted to one. There are hell holes and nothing else…getting worse as my cuts to social services are being made and nurses and aides are doing the work of three instead of one pro.

    If I do not die before then, please Lord, make me more like Mrs. Jones.

  9. says

    I have worked in an old people’s hospital as a student in my younger days, and I can appreciate where Stephen is coming from. And my cousin had reason to tell administrators at a rest home recently that she ‘wouldn’t put a dog in that room’ when they offered a very poor room to her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

    But I can also appreciate the point of this story, really that happiness is ‘a decision’. When I walked the Camino in 2008, after about a week of walking my feet were feeling very tender underneath. I was starting to think it was going to be like this the whole way, and I was just going to have to put up with it. But then I realised that instead of thinking about my tender feet, I needed to keep focusing on the beautiful things all around me- spiderwebs with dew on them, kind people in the gîtes, spring leaves bursting forth, dawn skies… Strangely enough, when I did that, my feet no longer felt tender! It was as if my brain had given the nerves a message to ‘quit bothering her- she’s not taking any notice- she’s got her eye on all the beauty around instead.’ And whenever I felt tired or discouraged on the walk- and some days I did, sometimes for no explicable reason or sometimes because the walk was exhausting- I tried to remind myself to be thankful for the good things around me.

  10. Carol says

    Thank you Margaret I have found your comments most helpful.
    I do hope I can foster an attitude like that.
    As Tim said this is a good story.
    I also appreciate Stephen’s comments.
    In Canada, our long term care is in crisis.
    There seems to be an increase in people with complex challenges entering our facilities. With staff shortages, long waiting lists. budget restraints etc

    My own mother certainly is not like the sweet older lady portrayed in the above story. When my mother was hospitalized I spent a number of days and nights- of which one nurse referred the ward as the world of confusion.
    It was an eye opener.

    What surprised me was the number of people who were aggressive
    my mother included in that number. It was frightening.

  11. Jim says

    Nursing homes present a big conundrum. Who do we blame if a lot of homes aren’t as good as they should be?

    Should we judge the people who put their relatives in homes? Your parents don’t spontaneously recover from strokes or shrug off their Alzheimer’s just because you have to go to work, after all, and not every family can afford to pay for constant supervision in the form of in-home care. The nursing home is the best a lot of families can afford.

    Should we judge the staff? Based on what my mother-in-law tells me about her experiences working in a nursing home, it does sound like a lot of the staff are just there for the paycheck, and some of them treat the residents like an pests. On the other hand, in the nursing home she works in, the pay is poor, the hours are terrible, the job security is non-existent, and the patients really can be abusive. (She’s told me more than once about the resident who threw her against a wall and knocked her out. She laughs about it and kind of kicks herself for putting herself in a position where he could do that.) A lot of the staff in her nursing home just aren’t emotionally mature go-getters, or they’d be doing something else. They’re basically in out of their depths, working there because it’s one of the few places they can get a job.

    So we blame the administration for paying so little and requiring so little in the way of qualifications, right? Well, they pay so little because running your average nursing home isn’t very lucrative. The home my mother-in-law works in is forever cutting staff and freezing pay rates. They don’t require many qualifications because you can’t hire highly-qualified staff for what they can afford to pay.

    Does that bring us back to blaming the families, for paying so little for the care in the first place? The ones who put their relatives in the home because they couldn’t afford a better option?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *