Her name was Virginia.
I had recently read, "The best way to overcome fear is to do the thing you fear." I agreed to go because I was compelled to do things that got me out of my comfort zone. And this did. I was outside my comfort zone. The place smelled of urine, and the building itself was stark and old. Probably built in the 1960s, it was functional, but not beautiful. We stood around in the open foyer for a while before venturing into the wide hallways that led into shared rooms.
That evening, a group of Bible college students drove from their wooded, mountain campus to the nursing home in the city about an hour away. The goal? To share God's love with strangers. I was a high school student, but they welcomed me along. Nobody told me what to say or what to do. We just piled into cars, drove down, and walked in.
As our group visited the first few rooms, I hung in the background and let others speak. I felt anxious and unsure. What do you say to a senior at death's door whom you have never met? What if he has dementia? What if she gets angry? What if....? Ugh! The smell!
Finally, the group started splitting. As the rest of the group branched out, I walked into the next unvisited room. The woman with the bed closer to the door looked alert but incredibly frail. She was wearing a nightgown, propped up against a pillow. She beckoned me to come closer. Her pale, wrinkled face was open wide. Feathery wisps of white hair hung thinly on her head. She could barely get out intelligible words.
But she was busy. Scraps of white notebook paper lay all over her blanketed lap. A red ball point pen rocked in her frail, boney hand. After scribbling on the paper scrap, she handed it to me. Several scraps, marked in crooked red script, curled on her bedside table. In a shaky voice, with words cutting in and out, she explained how she gave these to everyone who came in her room. I looked at the paper in my palm. Scratched in red ink was a Scripture reference and a partial Bible verse.
We talked a little. I don't remember what we said. Some of it didn't make sense. But she loved God's Word. She had it tucked away in her heart and mind so firmly that when she had nothing left in this world, she still had the Words of Life.
I was there to bless her, but she blessed me. From her hospital bed confinement, she opened my eyes to a life free from the fear of man. From her aged hands, she passed out the Bread of Life to anyone who came close enough to receive it. From her heart filled with Jesus, she poured out all she had left to give. The Kingdom of God advanced that day. She displayed to a 15 year old girl how to finish well.
It was time to go. I said good-bye to my new 5 minute-long friend.
When it was time to go to the nursing home the next week, I looked forward to going. The racing heart and pit in my stomach were gone. I remembered Virginia's room number and immediately walked that direction. The door was open, so I leaned in. Her roommate with the bed by the window looked up. Virginia's bed, by the door, was neatly made and empty.
I couldn't throw it away. Virginia's paper scrap was tucked between the pages of my Bible for a long time.