My job has many, many components to it - and the fact that I am working two half-time jobs doesn't make figuring out how to structure my days a simple task. It becomes easy, in the rush of getting things done, to overlook those things that are what my friend Manuel calls important but not urgent. These are the things that are crucial, but not always high on the priority list.
On Friday, I decided to spend the day on one of those important but not urgent tasks, visiting some of our homebound folks. First, I visited FK. She's an older woman who has some issues with mobility. She recently had a stint in the hospital after falling down her stairs. She's much better now. The one year anniversary of her husband's death will be Christmas Day. While I was there, a woman delivered and set up her new Life Line.
Next, I visited KP. She also had a fall recently, and cracked a bunch of ribs. It's really slowed her down, though she is recovering. We talked alot about her family - she's very proud of her many grandchildren, and her daughters take great care of her from downstate. The most emotional part of the conversation came when talking about her husband. P died three years ago this week, and KP still misses him. At some point when I visit with her, we talk about P and she cries.
After lunch, I saw MM. He broke his hip in a fall in July, and he's finally returned home from the nursing home. His health is complicated by COPD. He can move much better now than he could when I got here in August, but the simplest of tasks (sometimes just talking) really winds him. We've talked alot about death. He's pretty clear that his time on earth is limited. He thinks of death as the next great adventure, though he's not quite ready to go yet.
Then, I saw LR. It was my first visit with her, and I was nervous about it. When I called to see if I could come by, she was quick to tell me that she is no longer a member at St. Barnabas. But, she allowed me to come. I learned that she was born with some defects in her legs, and has never walked a step. In the early '60s, she traveled to Chicago, where she lived for three years, training as a watchmaker. One of her proudest moments was graduating first in her class, and receiving a diploma as a Master Watchmaker, which still hangs on her wall. Her companion died a few years ago, and she has few family members left. By the time I departed, she was a bit teary, and told me that I could come back anytime. I think she's ready to call St. Barnabas her church again.
I arrived at the knitting group just in time for the tea break. I got to visit with the eight older ladies who gather twice a month for knitting and conversation.
I wasn't surprised, because this is often the case - but I left those visits feeling like I had been given so much more than what I gave. I love hearing people's stories. And it feels like an amazing precious gift to have people share their stories, loves, losses, hopes and fears. I left the visits clear about needing to make them a higher priority (and realistic about the limits of what I can do).