THE JOYS OF GIVING AWAY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

what do you do if you’re a 95 year-old man

living with your daughter?

why, you cook her supper two nights a week!!

***

so, when you’re in the hospital for therapy

and you’re wanting to do something fun

making peanut butter cookies sounds like

your kind of therapy

***

Mr. 95-Year-Old had a busy afternoon

mixing and shaping and baking

the perfectly perfect pretty peanutty pleasures

but his real pleasure came when we decided to wheelchair ride

up and down

over and through

all over the hospital

plate of cookies in his lap

offering to one and all employees

“would you like a cookie? they’re just out of the oven”

***

when all the cookies were gone, he said

this has been the best day

it has been so much fun

do you think we missed anybody?

I want to make sure we didn’t leave anybody out

***

the wistful glimmer in those faded eyes

as he worried over not leaving anyone out

stays in my memory still

***

it is more blessed to give than to receive

*****

It’s been some years now since I cared for this patient, but I remember how agog I was when he told me he cooked a full supper for his daughter two nights a week. When I questioned him as to the menu, he reeled off “meatloaf, mashed potatoes, butterbeans, cornbread” and such as that. And usually a dessert!!

As I sat there on that first visit in his room and chit-chatted with this most pleasant man, I reflected on the blessings I received out of getting to know my patients. You stare at them and listen to them and you realize that perhaps you are looking at your own self some fifty years in the future. There is nothing like healthcare to make one realize the brevity, beauty, and sadness in life. All that’s wonderful and horrible in life is right there in front of you.

The postscript to this little story is this. Within just a week, the patient’s body systems started failing, and he died. The peanut butter cookie day was one of his last good days, and I’m thankful that he got so much pleasure out of something that we younger and healthier people might take for granted…baking cookies and sharing them with others.

And let’s don’t take our youth and health for granted, either.

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I JUST WANTED SOMEBODY TO LISTEN

a night janitor with a fifth-grade education, late sixties, living alone

children scattered

but a devoted sister nearby

when he was young and strong, he never imagined that one day it would take him

two hours

to crawl across the floor to reach the phone to call the ambulance

the patient arrived at the hospital for swingbed therapy very weak after that piteous crawl and the grueling illness that followed

with tired tears oozing from closed eyes he repeated for the third time in two days his crawling story

he remembered the horrors of being alone and crawling and sick with fears of

A SOLITARY DEATH

on that floor

his listener was touched and leaned over his bed and patted and kissed him, saying

“you don’t need to worry any more…you’re here and safe and warm

and

people are all around you and we’ll take care of you”

the patient cried a little more

and said…

thank you

I just wanted somebody to listen

I was scared I was going to die alone

the patient and his sister came back to visit after his discharge

he was so, so happy

strong and walking

smiling from ear to ear

in the presence of those who had comforted him and encouraged him

and

listened to himĀ 

a brother and sister who started out young together

and then

grew old together

*****

This experience with this patient crystallized for me the importance and value of patient and empathetic listening in the healthcare setting (and also, of course, in our lives away from our work environment). Because the patient appreciated the time taken with and care shown to him, he did indeed feel safe and trusted me, and his therapy progressed in its own time as a result of the agape love we shared.

Mrs. Hate might expound in her “diatribes” how hard it is for healthcare workers to attain the extra time many patients, especially the elderly or lonely ones (and aren’t elderly people often the most lonely?), need and deserve. She, however, was most fortunate and blessed in that her particular job allowed her many opportunities to spend extra time with those she cared for. For that, Mrs. Hate is eternally grateful.