It was a Sunday after a Memorial Mass and this writer was in his Fourth Degree tux. It was time to visit the sick in a nursing home, so he went as he was. One of the ladies visited was about 75. She was Elsie McEvoy of St. Thomas More Church. A transplant
from Connecticut, she came to North Carolina with her husband to be with their children. Her husband passed the year before. She was confined to a wheelchair and we found her where she always was, in a central area hallway rocking from side-to-side and in a state of semi-consciousness. She was infantile and non-responsive.
I could not give her the Eucharist, as she could not know what was going on and would most likely have spit it out or choked. So, I knelt down and laid my hand on her to pray for a few moments.
As I was about to get up, she tried to speak. It was more of a babble or incoherent utterances. Then, to my surprise, she slowly formed words and started to speak. “You are…Knights…of …Columbus.” It was all she could do to speak these words
I was shocked to hear the words. She recognized me from my attire. I then got closer and assured her that, yes, I was a Knight of Columbus. She then got out a few more words, “My.. father… was a Knight.”
From this frail body in a wheelchair came a cry of happiness and the rekindling of memories of many years before and her home in Connecticut. I spent a little more time with her and, as I started to leave, another older lady, also in a wheelchair, but obviously in much better mental condition, called out to me. She said, “She probably didn’t know who you are.” You see, the lady I visited was always unresponsive to those around her. She added, “She doesn’t respond.” I then shared with her my experiences a few moments before. She was as shocked as I. This just didn’t happen.
I learned a valuable lesson on that visit.
I realized that there are probably many, many others who are ending their lives alone. Most don’t or can’t communicate with us, but they see us and they respond to our gentle touch, the holding of a hand, and the patience to stay with them long enough to let them respond in their own way. Vitat Jesus
By Lee Heavlin, originally published Chapel Hill KnightLine, May/June 2006