The Gift of a Smile


The transition from living in your own home and directing every aspect of your life to being confined to a wheelchair and being dependent on others for everything, is a traumatic change. Five months after motherís ninety first birthday my mother fell and this one single incident changed motherís life.

She was in hospital for months and then moved to a Nursing facility. We knew she would never go home again and then came the day when she too knew it.

When I visited with mother I recognized she was putting up a brave front yet I knew inwardly she was questioning her own value. She was completely helpless, confined to a bed unless some one moved her to a wheelchair. The sinks were not even set up for wheelchairs so she had difficulty even brushing her own teeth. Closets held her clothing up high, as if she had elastic arms. Motherís legs would barely respond to lift or shift and her conversations indicated she felt as useless as those legs. Mother was wondering why she was still on this earth.

Four infections had drained mother to the point, she no longer read or did crossword puzzles or played a card-match of Bridge against herself. Wishing to stimulate her interest in something I asked her if I could read a short story to her. She nodded her consent and laid her head back on the pillow.

The first story stimulated mother to talk about God and miracles and while she was speaking I was suddenly inspired to tell mother a different story. I told her the story of the PATIENT.

The patient was bedridden and only able to chat a bit and smile. ALL the nurses looked forward to going into the PATIENT'S room, because these health care workers were overworked, tired and in need of something, something like the milk of human kindness.

In the PATIENT'S room they fed on the warmth of the smile they received. Each person was uplifted by the good cheer, gentle words, and by the abundant and concerned thoughtfulness of this one senior PATIENT.

There were some in the hospital who yelled and whined. There were some who cried and others who literally abused the staff with both slapping, biting and harsh words, but not THE PATIENT. No, when staff entered the room of THE PATIENT it was as if they knew they would find sanctuary! All of the care-staff understood, in this room, with this one PATIENT, they would ALWAYS be uplifted. In that one room, they could always count on hearing kind words, waiting to be dished out like candy to a child.

Cleaning staff, nurses, even doctors fed on the endless supply of goodness dished out by THE PATIENT and the Patient , in turn, seemed to understand how very valuable this kind of service was to everyone. The PATIENT realized she was needed!

As I finished telling the story, a light seemed to go on within mother, and she exclaimed, " Goodness, the staff here all say they like coming into my room because I am so cheerful. I never thought about the impact of it before." It was as if a heavy load had lifted from mother's shoulders and she looked more relaxed than she had in a long time.

Mother's children have always known she blesses many lives with her loving disposition. How wonderful for mother to now understand her disposition makes a big difference and her very presence is a gift to many.

Ellie Braun-Haley ellie@evrcanada.com

"Now and then I have heard a saying, "grow where you are planted." It dawned on me that mother was growing in a new way." Ellie is the author of a number of books. Her short stories have also appeared in 22 On-Line publications and in countless books to include, Chicken Soup for the Soul, HeartWarmers of Spirit, Conscious Women, and many others.

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