The old crayon coloring activity. Fine. This is by an ancient of days lady called Emelene. She’s legally blind, ever so frail, and goes about in a wheelchair. She colors with crayons not because this is where’s she’s at in her psyche, but because it’s where she’s at in her spirit.
Emelene has a ferociously incisive wit. She’s not full of herself. She participates in the ever so dumbed down activity of coloring for the sake of others less fortunate than herself, making their time with the crayons an enjoyable experience. She’s their friend. She’s my heroine. I am inspired.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s I used to visit Saint Joseph’s Nursing Home when I was a little kid so as to be inspired by “old folks” and to give them a bit of distraction from an annoying little kid like me who arrived on his little bike. Doing that took the mystery out of nursing homes, kind of. It’s only now, witnessing the incredibly strong spirit of Emelene that I now have zero fear of going to any rehab-nursing home as a resident. For that I thank her.
I’ve always been the one to think that being the martyr, laying down one’s life for one’s friends is the way to go, especially for a priest. However, Emelene has shown me how to lay down one’s life for one’s friends right where one is in the most utterly mundane of circumstances. I mean, juxtapose those: crayons and martyrdom. Emelene, my heroine.
Remember, Jesus’ love and truth and goodness and kindness is stronger than death, stronger than any circumstances of having a failing body while being totally young at heart.
Meanwhile, I’m the chaplain on a rotating schedule at the rehab-nursing home. We have a bible service. There’s Scripture, a bit of a homily from the preacher-man, and a bit of singing. Emelene plays the hymns on the piano from memory.
Meanwhile, a new resident came in her wheelchair, a good friend. I was again inspired. She jumped right in and helped pick hymns to sing which Emelene immediately played. Old time hymns, mind you, all 1800s style sung in a way and played in a way that I dare say hasn’t been heard for a good half century. Much has been forgotten. This was a super cool experience. It brought tears to the other residents. Again, inspiring altogether.