God, it seems like a while since we have spoken. It is I, Sara, your 98-year-old friend. I was never one to pray from a formal prayer book, so I speak to you now again from my heart. You obviously know that things have not been easy for me lately. I am back here once again in the hospital. Apparently, this time I fell in my bathroom and the aide found me lying on the floor. It’s crazy—I have absolutely no recollection of what happened! I am quite lucky that I did not break any of my body parts! Apparently, though, I have a clot in my lung which caused me to collapse. I get visited by numerous caring doctors and nurses, each doing their own role in trying to help me get “better.” But can I really get better? To be honest, I don’t want or feel the need to “get better.” I don’t want to be fixed anymore. I am not interested in being discharged to go to a rehab, as the doctor mentioned. I am ready to return to you God. It is really ok.
When Joseph was alive we did everything together. We had a special marriage, raised our two children and explored the world. We were never of the “religious” type, but always considered ourselves to be good Jewish people who did our best in instilling within our children Jewish values. When Joseph died 15 years ago, I knew I had lost my best friend and partner in life. Somehow, I learned slowly to live life without him. I became more involved with our temple and was active in the senior center. Many of my friends became my family until they started to pass away too. One by one. And I am still here…I never ever thought I would live this long!
My children wanted me to live closer to them so I moved from Florida to New Jersey. My son found a “good” facility for me and that is where I have been for the past five years. My two children and grandchildren are absolutely wonderful, as you know. Better children I could not have asked for—I am so proud of who they have become and the families they have raised. I have even lived to see great grandchildren; I know I am truly blessed!
Unfortunately, I do not get a chance to see everyone as often as I would like—everyone is so busy with their own lives. I genuinely understand why they don’t have so much time to visit with me. My daughter is a mother and grandmother herself and is already so busy, even without me in her life. I feel, or rather I know, that I am a burden to my family. I do not belong or have a place here anymore. In many ways I feel like a bird thrown out of its nest who feels lost and is trying to figure out where it belongs and what to do. I have outlived my generation and it is lonely.
My health is deteriorating slowly. My hearing is not great and I often feel embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves. My vision is getting much worse; the glaucoma has taken away a lot of my sight. Everything looks like brown blobs, especially in my right eye. It’s hard for me to see the food in my plate, and because of my shaky right hand, it is not easy to hold a fork or spoon. Either I need to be fed or I eat with my hands. Neither make me feel human. The doctor here tells me to watch what my diet, but I really don’t have much of a say in that, do I? I am at the mercy of the chef in my facility and the food there is absolutely terrible. Who knew that roasted chicken could taste so horrible?
I can’t walk very well anymore. I need help going to the bathroom. I really hate being so dependant on others for everything. I go to bed at 7:30 at night, wake up around 7 in the morning and I just sit around all day because I can’t participate in any of the activities in my facility. I do not have too many friends here either. I can’t see them too well or hear what they have to say. And regardless, there is not much to talk about when you have not been out.
Many people, including many of the doctors here, are always shocked to see that my brain is still working and that I am still pretty sharp. I know that seems like it is a blessing, but sometimes I wonder if it really is.
The chaplain here in the hospital visited with me. She sat with me for a while and let me talk. It was only by the grace of God that she walked into my room exactly when she did, because I really needed to unload to someone very desperately. I could not help but cry intermittently throughout our visit as I discussed with her my physical, emotional and spiritual struggles. At one point she asked me what brings my life meaning. I paused and had to think hard before I answered her; it was difficult for me to respond. I told her it was my great-grandchildren who I see on occasion. They bring me temporary happiness and are a distraction for me from my lonely life.
I struggle to find what my purpose is in this world right now. God, I know in your infinite wisdom you have a plan for me, but in all honesty, I do not understand what it is. I confessed to the chaplain that I pray to you often to end it all and to just let me pass away peacefully in my sleep. I have stopped expressing these true feelings to my family because I know it is too hard for them to hear. These feelings of mine are kept all bottled up inside of me, which only increases my isolation. I long to talk to someone more often who will listen to me, hear me and hold my feelings for what they are and not for what they “should” be.
God, I pray to you from the depths of my heart. I am so grateful for the life you have given me. Please help me feel your loving presence beside me now, because I feel lonely. Please give me the strength I need to get through each day, because my body seems to be weakening. Finally, help me recognize that, though I might not understand your ways, each day is a gift from you.
By Debby Pfeiffer
Debby Pfeiffer is a board-certified chaplain working at Morristown Medical Center through its affiliation with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, NJ. She resides in Bergenfield with her husband and five children. She can be reached at [email protected]