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Worth A Thousand Words
By Donna Emery

Just because I can't talk doesn't mean I've got nothing to say.

I sit in this hallway every day. They put me here when they get me up, and I sit here until they bring me back to my room. I don't blame them for doing it. I know what I look like to them. I've seen myself in the mirror lately: my hair is flat and lifeless where it used to be vibrant and curly. The left side of my face is slack. My right arm lies limply in my lap.

People think it's tough to live in a nursing home, but I really don't have it so bad. They give me everything that I need here. I have enough food, and I have people to help me get dressed and washed. I listen to music and go to Sister Marshall's Bible study on Tuesdays.

I share a room with Bessie. Bessie thinks she's still four years old. She calls me Mom, and that's OK; I wouldn't correct her even if I had the words to try.

The ones that I feel for are the staff. Some of the people who live here can be nasty and mean-spirited. They curse or scream or say mean things; they hit and kick and bite. And it's not like they pay the help a million dollars here. Yet they come to work every day and do their best for us. They clean us and feed us and help us dress. They bring us to activities and give us our medications. So I figure that somebody should do something to help them. I chose to do the only thing I can do: I can pray.

I listen to the staff as they work and as they pass me in the activity room, and I pray for each of them. I believe what the Bible says about how prayer can work wonders. I may not be able to use my mouth to speak but the words in my heart can, and do, reach God.

Hannah Johnson is one of the nurses. I love Hannah. She smiles when she works and often sings hymns in the hallway. She's also the only one who always remembers to put my pills into chocolate pudding. She had a worried look in her eyes the other day as she gave me my medications. I listened to see what she needed prayer for, but she wouldn't say. She just gave me the medications and walked out of the room. Now that's not like Hannah, so I decided to pray.

Dear Lord, you know what Hannah needs. You know why she's so quiet. Please touch her heart and help her reach out to you. Whatever she needs, please give her. Amen.

A few days later, Hannah was singing in my room again. She even told Molly what had been bothering her. One of Hannah's kids had been very sick, and Hannah has been worried. Molly began to cry and answered: "At least you have kids. We keep trying, and the doctors can't figure out why it's not happening."

Dear Lord, please help Molly. Please touch her body and comfort her hurting heart. Please help her to find joy in You. Amen.

Molly didn't cheer up right away, but I kept on praying for her. After all, I don't have much else to do. And while Molly didn't have a baby, she soon began to smile. I heard why when she was talking to Murray, the housecleaner. She told him: "I just love my Sunday school class. It's so much fun to see their faces when they sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

Murray nodded. He works hard here and he makes the floors gleam like marble. "I wish my Tim could be in your class," he sighed. "Maybe he'd do better with a teacher like you."

I knew Tim. Murray's wife brings him in to visit us on Thursdays. Tim is a beautiful boy, but I could see he was a bit slow. I love Tim's visits because he gives such wonderful hugs.

"Tim's teacher seems impatient because he can't learn as quickly as the other kids."

Dear Lord, be with Murray. Help him be the best father that Tim could have. Give him patience, understanding and love for Tim. And be with Tim, and help him to be the person you have called him to be. Amen.

I don't know how, or if, God will answer that prayer, but today is Thursday. Tim's here with my roommate.. She thinks he's a four-year-old, and he plays along. No one ever had to tell him about Bessie; he seems to understand.

When they're done talking, Murray brings him over to me. "Tim, you remember Miss Callie. She doesn't talk, but she'd probably like a visit with you. I'll be right here in the hall during your visit."

Tim hugs me and snuggles close. "Miss Callie, you so pretty," he says.

I reach my left arm around him and hug him back. For a few moments, I'm not a silent and purposeless old woman. For those moments I'm enveloped in the comfort of an innocent, young boy and I'm returning that comfort with all of my waning strength. For a few moments, my spirit speaks as loudly as I'd like my voice to speak.

When Murray comes back in the room, he's smiling at us. "Tim, don't hug poor Miss Callie to death."

Tim laughs at his dad. "Daddy, it's OK. Miss Callie and I was just talking."

Murray winced. "Tim, it's not kind to make fun of Miss Callie. She can't help it if she doesn't talk."

Tim shook his head in frustration. "Daddy, you don't get it. Hugs is how Miss Callie talks to me. I like that 'cause I speak hug as good as anybody else."

Murray's eyes dawn with understanding and he reaches over and hugs me, too. "Thank you," he whispers.

Just because I can't talk doesn't mean I've got nothing to say.
Donna Emery is a nurse and teacher from Central Pa. She loves to use the gift of writing to tell stories that have uplifting and enjoyable topics. Donna is one of the assistant editors for FaithWriters' Magazine. If you would like to write to Donna, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.