When I was a young girl, my parents, for a short period of time, were involved in being EM's to the sick. Twice they were called upon to bring communion to a convalescent home. I vaguely remember the smell and the discomfort of strange, gnarled hands reaching out for me (I was about 7). What I remember most, however, is the pure joy on some of the faces we visited. They were so happy to get some attention, especially from my younger brother and I. It was with that experience in mind that I (and my two youngest) became involved in visiting one of our local convalescent homes with my friend Carmen.
A few quick words on the facility we visit - this is a very clean facility. It also has numerous, attentive staff. They have a full schedule of social activities on top of all the physical therapies and exercise available. With all that in mind, this is also a "last stop" kind of facility. Most of these people will never leave. Those who are able to leave their beds are all in wheelchairs, many of them not coherent enough to participate in much of anything. Some have family that visit, but many do not. The caregivers do their best but it is kind of a sad place.
We have been visiting twice a month for about 9 months now. I have mentioned before the comfort and joy our simple visits can bring. We visit, say a rosary, and pray with them. We have asked a number of times if they would like for us to bring communion, but they always refuse ("they" being the 2-3 "regulars" we have). About a month ago, we were asked to bring communion to a resident. When we arrived, we learned that she had moved to the hospital. We decided to do our "usual" prayer service and then ask if anyone wanted to receive the communion we brought with us (only 1 host). Well, of course, Jesus drew quite the crowd for us. We had the largest group yet and we had 5 people who wanted to receive. We did our best to fracture our 1 host so that everyone could receive. It was a wonderful experience.
For our May visits, we were asked to cancel our visit at the beginning of the month and just come at the end of the month. We decided instead of a regular visit, we would arrange for a mass. So yesterday morning we arrived - myself, Sebastian and Vibiana, Carmen, Angela (a new RCIA graduate) and Fr. Richie. We walked into the activity room to find nearly 20 residents present - definitely the largest group we have ever drawn. Throughout the course of the mass we had no less than 5 people in tears. At the sign of peace I spoke with Theresa, one of our regular attendants. She was sobbing and said to me, "I haven't been to mass in four years. I had forgotten everything I was missing!" Another woman, with tears running down her face, told Carmen, "I'm not sad. I can't stop crying because I'm so happy." One gentleman, when we asked if he was Catholic, said "No, I just felt like being here to praise God."
A few hours later, when we were picking up Darian and Sophia from school, Darian asked Sebastian if he had fun visiting the "Grandmas and Grandpas." Sebastian said, "Yeah. It's fun making people happy."
Son, I couldn't agree more.