I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
Jim sat in the stark nursing home hallway with his wife Alice – his bride of 42 years. Alice hid her face under a plaid blanket. I asked him if she would like a scarf. He asked how much it cost. Nothing, we have a gift for each resident. I wrapped the soft purple one around her neck. She didn’t react until I tried to put a heart decoration on her ponytail. She swatted her hand at me.
His eyes were creased with sorrow. He kissed her cheek.
Eight weeks ago, I don’t know what woke me up about 3 am…..well, yes, I do know. It was God. I looked over at my wife. She had a strange look on her face and there was saliva on her mouth. Oh, Alice….please, you didn’t have a stroke……
I got a washcloth, put it under hot water and rung it out real tight and wiped her mouth. ‘Alice, if you aren’t better in ten minutes, I am going to call 911.’
The ambulance took her to Einstein. She was there for two weeks. They told me I had to find some place for her. She doesn’t talk anymore. She looks around the room and then her eyes stop on something. And I say, “Alice, is it the light that you want me to turn off?” or “Are you looking at the glass of water, Baby?”
I come every day. We live 20 minutes from here by car. She likes to sing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let It Shine. Yesterday, we sort of sang it together.
Can we pray together? I am a deacon at my church.
My mother and I bowed our heads. Another resident Katherine wheeled her chair over to join us.
Lord, if you see fit, please make my Alice better. Heal her. Bless my two sisters whose memories of growing up I cherish. Church bells, crickets in the fields, laughter, going to church. My sisters are far from me. Geography separated us. One is in a nursing home in South Carolina and the other is living with her daughter in Georgia. There were six of us kids. Now just three left who have not gone to heaven. The others were called Home. And my father, God rest his soul…..ladies, can we sing his song that he used to sing to me? Can we sing Amazing Grace? I am sorry that I am crying now, Lord. His name was Jim, too. I am in my 80’s and I try to keep my emotions in but right now, I can’t. I am thinking of my father and my sisters and my wife. Lord, please touch me and lift my spirits. We have a great need for prayer in this nursing home.
My mother pulled out her hymn book. First she read the words aloud and then we sang the old hymn.
When the woes of life o’ertake me
Hopes deceive and fears annoy.
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
Then we sang This Little Light of Mine. Alice kept sleeping. Jim kept singing verse after verse…..verses that I had never heard. Probably lyrics that he and Alice made up together. His gentle voice continued quoting scriptures from memory interspersed with sad tears falling. He dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.
The Lord will hear when I call unto Him.
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
It was time for us to go. He stood up and put on his coat. I could see that he had something wrong with his leg. He was limping. He hobbled favoring one leg. Was it the crushing grief in his heart that made him hunch over a bit or had he broken a hip in the past?
He didn’t seem like a quitter or a grumbler. He was calm. I thought of a beautiful love song from the musical My Fair Lady. I could picture Jim singing it about his beloved Alice.
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
I’ve grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I’ve grown accustomed to the tune she whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns, her ups and downs
Are second nature to me now.
It has only been eight weeks since Alice lost interest in life. She can no longer put feelings into words.
I’ve grown accustomed to her looks, accustomed to her voice
Accustomed to her face.
He kissed her cheek again. And again and again.