This blog is about Elder Care, It's what I have learned from visiting my Mom everyday in a nursing home. Even though I have been visiting for 4+ years, I continue to learn new things about the elderly, and those who care for them. It's about this stage of life for me and my Mom.
A blog posting really isn't usually this long but Mom told me this story from her life for the Senior ministry newsletter at our Church. It's such a heartwarming story, I'm just gonna post it here too. The story is a story from her many cherished memories working with the Balboa Church of Christ in Panama. Above is a picture from the Balboa Church of Christ Reunion a few years ago. Those who can still get together every 2 years. It was a special time in all our memories. They are wonderful Christian people.
Nancy Wright is 89 years old and lives in the Wesleyan Nursing Home in
Georgetown TX. The Senior Ministry at our Church asked for a favorite story
from her life. In the 1970’s she and my
father, John Wright served as missionaries in Balboa, Panama. During the years
they were there, the Balboa Church of Christ grew in leaps and bounds. This is a
story from that time. Sophia
One evening, when John and I were
in Panama, we were just about to sit down to dinner and we heard a quiet
knocking on the door. It wasn’t surprising, we often had unexpected visitors at
dinner time. Sometimes it bothered me a little, mostly because I never felt
comfortable about how much to cook. Our
home was open to anyone who wished to visit, eat or even stay the night.
Hearing the soft knocking and
knowing I had only made enough for two, I sighed, “Uh-oh, who could that
be?” John walked to the door and peeked
into the peep hole. He spied a woman there, turning around quickly to leave. He
opened the door and called out to her, “Hello, yes we’re home. Can I help
you?” The attractive middle aged woman
was wearing a cotton bandana skirt, a ruffled sleeve blouse and brightly
colored headscarf made from calico that mostly covered her black afro.
Looking somewhat embarrassed, she
responded “Ella dera.” Obvious by her dress and her accent, she was
Jamaican. John and I were friends with many
Jamaican’s in Panama. Their ancestors came to live there as laborers for the
Canal. Many of these workers died of malaria and suicide. Most of those who
survived continued to live in Panama for life.
“Ella dera, my name be Tamila. I’m
sorry to disturb ya, I don’t even know ya but I been told to ask ya.” Always a
generous man, John introduced himself and reached into his pocket for some
cash. “Nuh, nuh, I don’t come here for no money. Ma mudda made me come hera. She heard about
you and dat Church.”
John warmly invited her in and
shook her hand, “Come right on in Tamila. We’re so very happy to meet you.”
Tamila explained the reason for her visit, “My mudda told me to come hera and
ask you to come see her. She’s can’t come and talk to you, she’s got 98 years. She
just keeps tellin me to come and get ya. She says she gotta see ya. She can’t
wait anada day to talk to ya. Not one mo day mon.”
John was curious so he asked, “Do I
know your mother? Have I ever met her? What is her name?” Tamila shook her head
and said “Her name be Sophia and you never hear of her. She heard about you and
dat Church from some of her old friends.” With tired eyes Tamila looked at
John, sadly shrugged her shoulders and turned back for the door. “You don’t
have to come. I’ll tell her.’’
John was never the kind of minister
to hold regular working hours. He wasn’t the kind of person that would turn
anyone away. I knew he wouldn’t just let her walk out the door. So of course he
said, “Well now, hold on a minute, I’ll go and see your mother if that‘s what
she wants.” Since Tamila said her mother was 98 years old, John considered that
possibly she was planning her own funeral or felt she needed some kind of last
rights prayer. Who knows? What else
could it be?
“Did you walk here?” he asked. “I
don’t have no car” Tamila said. “We live in Rio Abaho. De bus come in about an
hour” John, looked at his watch and said, “We’ll take my car. I’ll go get my
keys.” “ Would you like me to go? “I
asked but didn’t really want to. He probably knew that I didn’t but replied,
“No, it’s alright, I’ll be right back, don’t worry, it won’t take too long.”
Rio Abajo was a West Indian neighborhood in Panama City filled
with Caribbean people who relocated there centuries ago. The little shanty wood
houses in Rio Abaho were painted only on one side and the fences were often
covered with tropical purple and white passion fruit flowers.
When John arrived at
Sophia’s house, he smiled as they pulled up. This place reminded him of his
childhood in Louisiana. He grew up in shanty wood homes as well but his
childhood home memories were on cotton farms, not Panama City. He got out and
stepped around all the brown and white skinny looking chickens running at his
feet, clucking, hoping to be fed. It was
quiet outside other than the chickens. It was getting dark, he wondered if he
was visiting too late.”Do you think your mother is sleeping?” Tamila rolled her
eyes at John as if she were a teenager, sick of having to obey her mother’s
will. “Nuh, nuh, she wait for you to come. She wait all night.”
Tamila took John’s hand and led him
into the house. Sophia was sitting on the sofa with her legs crossed like an
Indian. John looked at the old woman and
thought she certainly was limber for her age but she couldn’t possibly weigh
more than 70 pounds. Her eyes and cheeks were hollow and sunken in, most likely
from age and weight loss. Her white grey hair was pulled back from her black
little wrinkled face. Sophia uncrossed
her legs and said, “There you are! You be John Wright? I woulda come myself,
but I can’t get around nuh mo”
Sophia picked up the Bible from her
lap. The old Bible was falling apart and
matched its owner perfectly. It was worn and tattered and it looked like the
chickens outside had scratched all over it. It looked as if it had been
Sophia’s favorite book for a long, long time. John and Sophia talked for a
while about her Bible studies. She turned to Matthew 3, Acts 2:38 and John 3:16
as well as others verses. Sophia would go through the pages of the Bible and
find the verse she wished to discuss.
John could see that Sophia had
studied a great deal. In fact, she knew and could recite the Bible by heart. He
smiled and complimented her Biblical knowledge. “Sophia, you know the Bible
better than most people, in fact, you know the Bible as well as I do.” He continued,
“I can also see that you love the Lord with all your heart and soul.” “I sure
do, Mista. John, I love Jesus.” she said.
Still puzzled as to what was so urgent about this and why she
called him there, he took Sophia’s feeble little hand in his and he looked into
her soft brown eyes through her old reading glasses, “What can I help you with?” Sophia responded with a long sigh,”uuuhhh,
oohh Mista John. I have studied the Bible through an through. I understand it.
I hear about you and dat Church. I hear you believe what deh Bible says!” John was
happy to hear that because that’s the very best compliment you can give a minister
and a Church. Sophia continued “And den I hear you follow it. What deh Bible
say, you and dat Church?” she asked. “Why yes we do! We do believe the Bible
and we’re not always perfect but we try our best to follow it just as it says.”
John leaned back and wondered what was next?
Sophia could barely hold back her excitement. She pressed on the
side of the sofa and rose up out of it carefully. Her tiny body shook to hold itself up. She
lifted her hand to her heart as if she were saying the pledge of allegiance and
declared, “I believe dat Jesus Christ, is da son of God. I want to be baptized;
I wanna wash away my sins. I wanna go undah de wadda…all the way undah ..Like
in de Bible.”
John leaned back astonished by Sophia’s request. She’s too old, she’s too frail, she’s too
thin, he thought. I’m not sure we could even do that for someone this age and
in this state of health? Not really knowing exactly what to say, he said “I
don’t know, Sophia, I just don’t know.”
Sophia carefully sat back down and her daughter came to her. Tamila
sighed, shook her head at John and got right down to her mother’s eye level, “Mama
Nuh! We already talk about dis. You too old to go in deh watah. Mama you can’t
even walk.” Looking over at John, she explained, “You not the first one Mista
John. She been askin others. They tell her over and over it’s not necessary”
Tamila turned to her mother and sighed,” Mama, its ok …God knows your heart.”
In response to this, Sophia started to cry.
John aghast by this predicament, sat there contemplating what a
wonderful world it would be if everyone was as urgent as this sincere woman to
follow and obey God’s word! Wouldn’t it great if we were all that concerned
about our soul? Being the man that he was, he understood her sincere compassion
for the word and her deep desire to be with God. He was certain of all of this
but unsure if this would be good for Sophia right now.
What can I do?” he asked out loud. “Are you ill? Are you
afraid?” “Nuh, I just got da old age.” she answered. “Everybody gonna die,
Mista John, nobody knows when de gonna die. You dying, we all dying”
Sophia wiped her tears with the white cotton hanky John offered
her from his pocket. John was one of those gentlemen that carried a white hanky
at all times just in case someone needed it, a crying baby, a kid with a runny
nose, an adult with a cold, or most of all for those who needed a caring
listener and a good cry. Sophia waited for an answer. John bowed his head and
silently asked God for guidance. After a few moments, he looked at Sophia and
winked. “Let’s go get baptized” he said. The feeble old woman smiled at John with such joy,
you could even see a few little teeth still there. John looked over at Tamila
for support and said, “God help us.”
That very night, the resolved missionary carried the little old
Jamaican woman out to his car and with her resigned daughter, in tow; they went
to the house to pick me up. John decided
they needed me to come along as well to help. He walked in our house, and
pointed out to the car. “Look out there. You’re not going to believe this. I’ll explain it all later. I’m going to need
your help for this baptism and she wants to do it right now.”
At the church, Tamila and I changed Sophia into the smallest
white cotton gown we could find. She looked sort of like a swaddled baby as her
wrinkled thin ashy legs, about as big around as your wrist, hung out the bottom
of the gown. John came in and as quiet
and gentle as ever, he picked up his new friend into his arms and headed toward
the small church baptistery.
John took a deep breath and sighed as he went down into the
water. He kissed Sophia softly on her cheek and asked her tenderly, “Sophia, do
you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” “I do.” she said. “I now baptize you
in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” John was shivering
with love and emotion as he lowered this precious Christian woman into the
water, oh so, so, very carefully.
Tamila and I and watched in tears. When John lifted Sophia out of the water, she
started waving her hands in the air rejoicing. She looked so full of energy! It
was as if she wasn’t old at all. Like a happy child, she clapped and wiggled
around in John’s arms. Then she started to sing, “Oh Happy Day! Oh Happy Day!
When Jesus washed my sins away.” She knew all the words to the song and sang
all the verses. We all just started to laugh and cry and we sang the song right
along with her.
Sophia said it was like she was in heaven already. I’ll never
forget it. When all was cleaned up and finished, we left the Church, feeling as
though Sophia wasn’t the only one born again. We all felt born again with her.
John dropped me off about midnight and took Sophia and her daughter home. Two
days later, we got a phone call from Tamila. Sophia had died peacefully in her
I felt so blessed to have been there that night. I’m so thankful
I got to share this precious memory with John. I think of Sophia every time I
hear that song and I’m reminded of her sincere desire to be a Christian and not
to wait until another day. Oh Happy day! When Jesus washed my sins away.
OH Happy Day.
Written by Philip Doddridge
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
and live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!