A Whirlwind Trip

We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. —I Chronicles 29:15, NLT).

My family spent 26 hours in our car this weekend in order to spend one hour with my beloved Uncle Duane (who I wrote about here).

It was worth every second.

I was the first person to reach his room.

He was sitting quietly in his wheelchair, hands folded, waiting patiently for our arrival.

As soon he saw me, his entire face lit up like a child on Christmas morning and a huge smile wreathed his face.

He held out his arms to welcome me with a hug.

Within seconds his small room was filled with family and happy chatter…except for our daughter Julia, who was sick and could only wave from his doorway before heading back to her spot at the end of the hall. (Nursing home policy).

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We settled down to talk for awhile and take some photos.

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This was followed by a tour of the physical therapy room. We were able to meet both his physical and occupational therapists; two wonderful young women who were full of kindness and good cheer. It did my heart good knowing that my uncle is receiving such excellent care.

It was there that he reminded us all of his motto for this time in his life: “Remember, my goal is to get strong and get out of here!” 🙂

The remainder of our visit took place in the dining room, where we presented Uncle Duane with cupcakes from his favorite bakery…an early 87th birthday celebration. We all quietly sang Happy Birthday, so as not to disturb the other residents who were playing a rousing game of trivia on the other side of the room.

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He proceeded to enjoy every single bite of the sugary goodness. This bakery has provided delicious confections for our family’s celebrations for years. Taking one bite is like re-living happy memories.

Sometimes it is the little things that bring us the greatest joy.

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All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

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When it was my turn, I hugged my uncle’s thin shoulders, then pulled back and said, “You know you were always my favorite uncle, right?”

He laughed and said, “Well, I’m one of many!”

I wasn’t laughing.

“No,” I said, in all seriousness. “You were always my favorite. Still are.”

With that, I had to turn away because the tears were forming in my eyes and I didn’t want him to see.

Our last glimpse as we left was  Uncle Duane waving from his table as he awaited lunch being served.

This visit was a wake up call for our kids.

They had never been to a nursing home before.

My uncle’s room was near the end of the hallway,which allowed us to see into other rooms as we passed. Several elderly people were sleeping, looking so small in their hospital beds. Others watched TV or sat in wheelchairs staring out the window. One woman was just sitting with her head in her hands; the very picture of despair.

Despite the bright winter sunshine pouring in through the windows, the sense of sadness was palpable.

None of this was pleasant to see, but my husband and I feel that it is important to teach our kids to face this life head on: both the joys and the heartaches. Denial never serves anyone well.

I reminded them of how fast this life goes; that those people sharing Uncle Duane’s floor were once teenagers too.

I think they must get tired of me telling this to them, but again, I said it, “Make every single day count. Take nothing for granted. Fully live your life.”

They also learned that loved ones are a worthy  investment. Time with them is precious. I hope they will always be willing to go the extra mile when someone they love needs them.

One full, joyful hour with my uncle was worth 26 hours in a cramped vehicle and a weekend diet of fast food.

It was a day that we will all remember with great fondness.

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“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”—Abraham Lincoln



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2 responses to “A Whirlwind Trip

  1. Lisa Marie

    This story brought back alot of memories for me. I became very close to my neighbors Grandmother and we “adopted” each other as Grandmother and Granddaughter. Just like your Uncle Duane, her smile would light up whatever room she was in while her heart warmed it. She loved to throw her head back and laugh and she lived every bit of her 98 years. She’s passed now. The last thing she heard before she died was my voice telling her that I loved her so much, that she was the sweetest part of my heart, and that she would be with me always. And then I told her that it was OK to go whenever she was ready. She passed within hours. It’s so important to leave loved ones with kind and loving words because you never know when they will be your last. It is evident by the photos you posted that your Uncle Duane has a wonderful joyful spirit. I have such a respect and admiration for folks who are tumbling into antiquity. Their stories, if stitched together, tell you of their life’s travels. Fascinating, I think. Your driving 26 hrs to spend just one with your Uncle Duane – I so get it and I’d do exactly the same. That 1 hour you gave him filled him with such joy and love and peace. Bless your heart for giving of yourself in such a way. I know you got it back 10-fold. Thank you for this post, Susan.

    • Thank you, Lisa Marie. You get it. Your adopted grandmother sounds like she was a lovely and joyous person. She was blessed to have you in your life!

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