Although Joyce had little patience with elderly people, being unemployed, she applied for the activity director position in a nursing facility. “I can always quit if I don’t like it,” she thought. When the shrill ringing of the telephone woke her, it was 8:05am. The woman on the other end sounded cheerful and confident. “I have your application for activity director,” she said. “We are about to open a new unit. How soon can you be here for an interview?” Trying her best to sound awake, Joyce said, “One hour. I can come in one hour.”
From that day on, Joyce’s life changed. It is no longer her alone. Each waking moment, her thoughts are on the residents of the nursing facility. The residents fill her thoughts and her heart – these lonely, fragile people who all have a story to tell and love to give.
Her first love was Miss Lilly, a lonely woman with only one living relative. Miss Lilly was not a pretty sight. She was a board-shouldered woman with large hands and feet, in a near prone position. She spent her days in a blue chair. She drooled constantly, her large mouth often hanging open to expose several stain, broken teeth in blood-red gum. Her hair, sparse and iron-gray, had twin cowlicks that caused it to stick out in all directions. Worse yet, Miss Lilly never spoke.
Joyce had seen her one relative, a niece, several times. Each visit was the same. Standing a few feet in front of the blue chair her niece would say, “Your check came, your bill is paid.” Never a personal word, a hug, or any sign of affection.
Months passed, and Miss Lilly seemed to shrink lower and lower down in her chair. Plainly, her health was deteriorating. Joyce was staying longer and longer in her unit and discovered she was not eating well. Joyce gave up her lunch hour to feed Miss Lilly. Seeing how much Miss Lilly enjoyed Jell-O and pudding, Joyce brought her extra. Joyce talked to her constantly – about the weather, current events, anything that could think of. Sometimes, Joyce held her hand. One day, to her amazement, Miss Lilly spoke. “Bend down,” Miss Lilly said. Quickly, Joyce knelt at her side. “Put your arms around me and pretend you love me,” Miss Lilly whispered. “Me love Miss Lilly?” Joyce had never thought about it. Joyce gathered Miss Lilly into her arms and felt her heart bursting with love.
There have been many Miss Lillys in Joyce’s life since then and she knows there will be others. They are the ones who need more than kindness and care; they need a little piece of her heart. She loves each day of work, sharing with the residents with her life, her joys and her sorrows. They share with her their past, their fear of the future, their families, and most of all, their love. Because of Miss Lilly, Joyce never feels the same about the older generation, about nursing facilities, or even about life. Nursing facilities are wonderful, caring places where witty, fun-loving seniors enjoy companionship and use each day of their lives to make a bright memory for tomorrow.