Ministry

A Wisp of a Woman

Yesterday I went to visit Nora, a wisp of a woman in her late 80’s. She lives in an apartment in a retirement home, a rather posh place with a lovely dining room and more activities than anyone can imagine. Nora has a two-bedroom corner apartment with an l-shaped balcony that allows her to do some box gardening and also to observe the gardens around the grounds of the facility.

Her earth box, as she calls it, contains different things each year–this is our fourth summer of visits–and she took great delight in telling me she has planted okra!! Not for the vegetable, she said, but for the beautiful blossom. Planting was late due to our rainy late spring and early summer, in which Nora didn’t feel like starting her gardening, but if we have a long warm fall, she said, it will produce lovely flowers in mid-October.

Okraflower2Nora lives with severe chronic pain. Pain has been as much her companion as the flowers and jigsaw puzzles and button pictures and paintings she has nurtured and solved and created. Her eye is as sharp as her body is frail. We discussed the idea that a recent fall might suggest the need to go to assisted living. “Sometimes,” she said, “I just want to get out of here, but I don’t want to go to the next place.”

I remember feeling that way, that emotional and psychological pain were just too much to bear, that I just wanted to get out of where I was. But I didn’t really want to go to the next place, as hard as it was to be in this one.

I had children, and the need to care for them eventually brought me back to groundedness, brought me back to living.

Nora has no children, but she always has an idea for a creative and kind way to spend her time. She is going to knit a teddy bear, although for some reason she just couldn’t remember how to cast on the stitches. We sat and she watched me begin a long-tail cast-on, holding the yarn over my left thumb and making stitches on the needle in my right hand.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Of course! Why couldn’t I remember that?”

Pain clouds our thinking.

I don’t understand why medicine cannot provide relief to people with pain like Nora’s. Her young nephews tell her that marijuana can be bought readily in City By the Sea. We’ve talked before about how some people are using it for pain.

“I wouldn’t want them to get into trouble. *I* wouldn’t want to get into trouble!!!”

We drank our cups of Earl Grey Tea on her balcony, and then it was time for me to leave. We stopped at the library to see the puzzle in progress and placed a few pieces in it. She came out the front door with me, and we walked across the grass to the kitchen garden, where they are growing gladiolus she supplied. They can’t grow the thing that might ease her bodily pain, but the vibrant flowers provide a different balm.

I’ll be back to see the okra blossoms.

8 thoughts on “A Wisp of a Woman”

  1. What a lovely story – and okra has such a pretty bloom, but oh how itchy it is to pick the pod when picking the vegetable. MMMM how good it is fried.
    Funny how some things become taboo, but other things that are more dangerous are.

  2. Such a hard choice. My friend Renowned Blakean is in a rather similar situation.
    I didn’t know that okra grew such lovely blossoms; I might have to plant some in my garden…

  3. Songbird, such a poignant story. Your presence and care really come through. I understand about living with chronic pain and it is unfortunate that politics get in the way of true care. Sounds like she has found amazing ways to celebrate the world around her in spite of/because of her pain. Blessings to you, Christine

  4. Nora sounds like a very special soul, and I can see why your visits with her bring you such joy. Bless you Songbird.
    Maybe she could try a Duragesic patch. My MIL lived for years with chronic pain, and once we started the patch (applied every three days) it was like magic. Pain relief without feeling mentally impaired or balance impaired. It made a significant difference in her quality of life.
    I will keep Nora in my prayers…

  5. Nora sounds like a lovely woman and a delight to be around.
    I have a cousin who uses the pain patch and it is seems to a big relief. Prior to the patch, she smoked marijuana. That helped significantly with her appetite, but the patch has been much better for her pain.
    I had no idea okra had such a pretty blossom.

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