Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 19, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 12 comments

St.Patrick’s Day at the RK

 

“Every man (woman) desires to live long, but no man (woman), desires to be old.*

Jonathan Swift

(I don’t think Jonathan Swift was a feminist. Parentheses inserted by yours truly!)

I’m hanging out a lot these days at the RK MacDonald Nursing Home. Some people are convinced that I’m just scouting the place out for a room! Mom moved in as a resident a few weeks ago so daily visits have become the norm.

Years ago, I was driving around the Cape with my mom. Her health was in decline. We drove and sang together, in two part harmony. We stopped in Ballantyne’s Cove for an ice cream. As we made our way along the twisting road with spectacular scenery, she turned to me and said, “Don’t ever grow old.” It really hit me and has stayed with me ever since. Swift was so right. We want to live a long life but we don’t want to regress.

I’ve got news for you. Unless you are lucky enough to be drinking form the fountain of eternal youth, your warranty notice will show up one of these days.

I always thought of the RK and other nursing homes as places to go and die. There’s no denying that many people will spend their final days in a facility such as this. But nursing homes are SO much more than this. They are very much about living, loving and laughing. They are places that ooze compassion and caring. They are filled with physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They are places of grace and gracious people.

I have also witnessed the great work at other public nursing homes, including Milford Haven in Guysborough and the Sherbrooke Nursing Homes. These are also first rate facilities.

The staffs at nursing homes are quite remarkable. This is not easy work. It is tough physically and mentally. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that this is much more than a job for many employees. It is a calling and a passion. I don’t think you can feign enthusiasm when you’re cleaning up after an accident. I have found the staff at the RK uncommonly kind to residents and their families.

Lest you think that nursing homes are just for the aged, think again. There are young people who have been dealt life changing blows who call the RK their home. They didn’t choose to be unwell just as older people didn’t choose dementia, Alzheimer’s or physical incapacity.

And guess what? Many of us are standing on the precipice, staring old age and infirmity straight in the face. Our turn is coming soon.

Like so many other things that make small communities run, volunteers are an integral part of the day to day life at the RK and other homes. I stood at the back of the main dining room the other evening and watched Bill Grover, Ronnie Hull and their buddies, hold the residents spellbound with wonderful old tunes. The next night, it was the Lion’s Club who came by for bingo. I routinely see university students in the hallways. And Brenda’s greyhounds!The Family Council and Foundation Board are also key pieces in the overall structure of the home.

I will tell you that nursing homes are not the depressing places that one often conjures up in discussions about aging. Yes. We would all like to live long healthy lives and die at home shortly after spending our last dollar at the casino. But for many of us, that’s not how the script will unfold.

I was playing music the other day at the RK. I watched this gentleman as he smiled, obviously enjoying the camaraderie. A few hours later he passed away.

Needless to say, I was quite shocked when I heard of his passing. I spoke to a senior staff member. Her words resonated with me then and now: “Our job is to make every day as comfortable and enjoyable for people as we can. We honestly have to love them like it’s their last day.”

None of us know when the light will flicker for the last time.

When my day comes, as it surely will (unless I make it to the Casino!), I won’t mind one bit if my family puts me in a nursing home. As long as it has wonderful folks like those at the RK, Milford Haven and Sherbrooke, I know I will be in caring hands.

If you come and visit me, pull up a chair, take out your guitar and sing “Heart of Gold” (Neil Young).

Even Neil Young will be Neil Old someday!

Have a great week.

 

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Comments

12 Responses to Monday Morning Musings

  1. Mom has said that to me many times in the past few years – her line is “getting old is not for sissies!”.

  2. Sheila redden says:

    I agree. Are you aware of the Thursday sing along in the chapel from 10:15 to 11:30. I played there weekly for many years but passed it on to the talented Helen MacDonald. Now that we live in town I go to give Helen a 15 minute rest or so. I can’t make it this Thursday because of a Liturgy meeting with the Martha’s. Helen certainly wouldn’t mind if you showed up(with your Mom) to give her a break. I won’t say anything in case the timing is not good for you.

  3. Christina Marlow says:

    Well done. Yet again I really enjoyed your musing. Thank you for doing what you do to bring joy to other States!

  4. Mary Cecilia MacPherson says:

    At age 25 you could have written with this sensitivity on the same subject, Leonard. Beautiful!

  5. Miriam Gillis says:

    Len, anyone who adds to the contentment and harmony of others to make life happier for them is much needed. You have done much to bring laughter and smiles to those who are frequently dependent on others to add to their sense of well-being. You deserve thanks for celebrating joy.☺

  6. Your kindness and talent will be so appreciated at he R K

  7. Wow, what a wonderful story! Oh my gosh, Len, as you know this sure hits close to home for me. I agree 100% with all your sentiments about the R.K. I honestly cannot say enough about all the wonderful staff there, and also all the volunteers who tirelessly give of their time to put a smile on the face of so many residents, For my brother, Blaise, music was his life. Thank you, Len, for putting so many smiles on his face. We all thank God every day for giving us such a wonderful and exceptional facility. I hope your Mom will be as content and as happy at the R.K. as Blaise was – he loved it there. Keep on doing what you do, Len, putting smiles on so many faces. Thank you !!

  8. Len has so kindly made my day, when I read week 45! I hope, with his permission, to mold his musings and thoughts into a homily one Friday morning during Mass. I wish, that I could give my innermost thoughts like Len has. Wonderful gift you have and a lot of time for all at the RK. God Bless. Deacon Art Riley, Spiritual and Religious Care. RK.

  9. Anne Marie MacDonald says:

    One of the best musings I have read. I love the work volunteers are doing to make a difference in the lives of the RK residents. My husband is with the Kinsmen and they hold bingo there at least three times a year. My daughter is in grade 12 French Immersion and her class has been volunteering there for these bingo nights. They are gaining such respect for the residents. We should do even more for them and I believe the university is reaching out with student volunteers through their service learning program! Keep up the enthusiasm; It will grow!

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