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My Own Testament - Raising My Hand
It was her lips that stood out the most. Pale and limp, they were surrounded by a wreath of wrinkles, carving their way to the sides of her mouth. A never-ending journey; the canyons continuously radiated outwards, spreading, until they were united with another. Between her rather ashen pilgrims, hardly blushing, a wheezing rattle escaped. It was barely heard over the angry humming of the oxygen machine for her roommate, grumbling and tumbling and churning. In an almost eager and yet fatigued manner, she asked, “So what do you want to know?”
And thus I took another step on my journey.
Outside her diminutive room, a sign printed, “Lois." It took much similarity to a prison cell, an enclosure that had been standardized into oblivion, imposing resocialization upon its inhabitants. However, upon entering her room, a curious change occurred; sterilized bare walls were replaced with snippets of photographs adorning the surfaces, along with ornate texts and mementos draping the issued furniture. Nevertheless, the signs of a nursing home resident were still prevalent from the rusty wheelchairs, distinctive smells, and the occasional scrubs-wearing aide barging into the room noisily to deliver the latest dosage of their paid-by-Medicare infused pills. Moreover, though, there were indicators of religion. Perhaps as prevalent as the pictures of her family was the plastering of the crosses, strewn almost randomly on the walls as if they were shrapnel from an explosion of faith. Maybe they were there for protection. Maybe they were for her religion’s sake. Or maybe just a reminder to herself that someone, maybe someone, was still watching.
I was primarily interested to interview Lois, a resident, to discover the feelings and emotions of an actual individual who is at the stage in life where one must begin to depart for the unknown. Although this type of interviewee was grimly warned against due to the possibility of bias, I realize that my topic cannot only thrive on logic. My answer must be based on faith. And so, I learned that Lois was raised as a Protestant from an early age although she “went through the same thing when [she] was a teenager.” For her, this “same thing” meant questioning her faith, and asking questions about God. She then revealed that her faith had become stronger as she aged, specifically when her son approached her about becoming a minister. “Wow,” she remarked, “that really made me open my eyes and accept God into my life.” As a final statement, Lois added, “I don’t know how, what are they called, atheists, live their life ... for me, God is always present. He is something for me to grasp upon. I would have nothing else if I did not have Him.”
After my interview with Lois, I was shepherded off to actually fulfill my volunteer duties that I had guiltily neglected for the past few months. During my rounds of madly piling plastic forks upon canvases of Styrofoam plates, I worked around a Bible study session. Some lying prostrate, some bound in their wheelchairs, more than two dozen residents were crammed into a small room around volunteers affiliated with the Parkside Church. Even though most elderly gave the appearance of being hopelessly asleep, the interesting fact lay that with each powerful statement that the volunteers proclaimed, a slight twitch in their faces could be observed, a sign of recognition.
A sign of hope.
As soon as the Bible study session ended, I was to interview Bill, one of the volunteers aforementioned. Donning a plaid shirt and modest jeans, he sported a friendly face and gave the sense of wanting to share his own personal journey. We walked outside into the cool air, which was slowly being infiltrated by the mush of hamburgers stemming from the nearby kitchen. Relaxing onto a bench in a shady patch, we began to talk.
Originally, I had a hypothesis for the answer to my question: perhaps, due to the nature of their limited time, elderly people were on a mad scramble to prove themselves to God before they believed that they would reach Judgment. However, Bill disagreed; he pointed out that in his observations, many of the nursing home residents now were faced with time. It was not the absence of time; it was the very presence and utmost availability of time. With the daily responsibilities gone, the residents now were left to ponder their beliefs. “They are totally dependent on others,” he said. “It’s a point in their lives that they realize that they need help to do many activities.” Bill added, “God isn’t there with a golden watch, counting down how much time you have to start believing. He’s always there.”
In his case, Bill had been at his lowest point five years ago, floundering in vices and squalor. He had been living with his now ex-girlfriend, who apparently was struggling with psychological issues and depression. After years of having to coexist with this woman, Bill finally forced her to move out. “The only thing left that I could do was pray,” he murmured. “It was the only thing that I could do.” This was an example that people often turn to God in times of human suffering, of helplessness. However, with the advent of my interviews, I have discovered other facets that God may appear in people’s lives.
We sat there for maybe another hour, just talking about life and religion, the hamburger-tinged wind blowing on our faces. When it was time to depart our separate ways, though, a sudden and loud flapping sound startled both of us.
A goose had appeared out of nowhere.
Chuckling to each other, we stood there, grounded, as we watched it fly to the heavens.