Visiting Day

They swarm Jeremy. They tell him stories. They touch him. They hug him.

They are old, but they love singing. So on Sunday afternoons, Jeremy sings to them. The residents who can still sing, do.

Jeremy visits the nursing home after playing piano at the Methodist church. He sits at the upright in the cafeteria and plays the classics.

Wheelchairs roll in by the dozen. Residents park in rows. Early birds get seats up front. Stragglers sit in the nosebleeds.

Jeremy has been playing music since age six. He can play any tune in the hymnal like a bona fide Cokesbury jukebox. He does it with a smile.

He sings “Old Gospel Ship,” “I Saw the Light,” and “Church in the Wildwood.” When he finishes, the residents of the nursing home clap. Some louder than others.

Now the real fun begins.

They swarm Jeremy. They tell him stories. They touch him. They hug him.

“I was a logging man,” one old man tells Jeremy. “I cut wood in South Alabama, did I ever tell you that?”

“No sir.”

An old woman touches Jeremy’s face. “You look just like my son, you’re so handsome, just like my son.”

Another woman wheels toward Jeremy in an electric chair. She hands him an old envelope. “Would you autograph this? You’re going to be famous one day, I just know it.”

He’s puts his John Hancock on the paper. She wheels away like she’s just confiscated Elvis’ underpants.

It’s lunchtime. The cafeteria comes alive with smells of canned corn, Salisbury steak, and creamed potatoes. I sit with Jeremy, we talk over plates of lukewarm apple pie. But our conversation is cut short.

Jeremy only has a little time left to make his rounds.

He jokes with the old man who is from New York. He laughs with the elderly woman whose husband was a florist. He talks to Luanne, who misses her daughter. He holds hands with Ernesta. He hugs Francine.

He sits beside Davy—the man with Alzheimer’s. Davy says that he used to be a pianist when he was young.

“Mama taught me to play,” says Davy. “She was a graduate from a fine institution in Tuscaloosa.”

Roll T—

Well, nevermind.

Davy’s mother survived a Depression and two spouses. She raised her kids on peanut wages. Davy returned the favor. She lived with him until she died at age ninety-six.

“Used to play for her every night,” said Davy. “But I can’t move my left hand no more.”

Jeremy has an idea. He rolls Davy to the piano before he has finished his hamburger steak.

He tells Davy, “I’ll play the left hand, you play the right.”

Davey plays the melody to “There is a Fountain.” Jeremy plays the bottom of the piano; Davy takes the top. The song comes out rough, but identifiable.

The people clap when the music finishes. They play “Amazing Grace” next. The old man starts crying.

“Thank you,” Davy says. “I haven’t played the piano in forty years.”

One nurse explains that Jeremy does this with Davy almost every week. “And every week,” says the nurse. “It’s just like the first time.

Here comes Barbara. She wheels toward Jeremy. Barbara had a stroke several months ago. Before that, she was a Librarian.

Her hobby was teaching underprivileged kids to read. She also helped several apply to college, and receive State-U educations. She’s done a lot in her day.

Barbara is half paralyzed, but her mind is good. She is on her way back to her room because she has spilled food all over her shirt.

The nurse parks her beside Jeremy. Barbara touches him. Her mouth is open, her words want to come out, but it takes work.

“You. Are. An. Angel,” she tells Jeremy. “Please. Come. Back. Please.”

“Yes ma’am,” says Jeremy.

Barbara goes on: “This has been the greatest day of my life.”

Jeremy’s face is swollen. His eyes are pink. He kisses Barbara’s cheek. Then she’s gone.

The greatest day of her life.

Yes sir.

It was one of mine, too.

21 comments

  1. Nancy Rogers - May 15, 2018 9:25 am

    After reading this, it is one of mine too.

    Reply
  2. Heidi - May 15, 2018 9:56 am

    You’re an angel to give us these stories and let us know these people, even just a little. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Connie Havard Ryland - May 15, 2018 12:24 pm

    Thank you for that story. My mom is in a nursing home. I’ve seen the joy that comes over faces when people visit. Like my mom, some of them don’t remember from one day to the next, but in that moment, they know they are loved and special. Blessings on the people who care for them.

    Reply
  4. Dianne - May 15, 2018 12:48 pm

    Having worked part-time in an assisted living/memory care home for almost two years, I can’t tell you how important it is for the residents to get visits from friends, family, and those who come to visit and entertain out of the kindness and goodness of their hearts. Thank you for bringing this story to all today, Sean!

    Reply
  5. Marty from Alabama - May 15, 2018 12:48 pm

    It could be that all of us will become residents of a nursing home. I sure hope there is a Jeremy at my home.

    Reply
  6. Edna B. - May 15, 2018 2:01 pm

    Every nursing home needs a Jeremy. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  7. Annie - May 15, 2018 2:31 pm

    Beautiful story! My 93 year old mother currently resides in a memory care unit. I’ve noticed that music is the one thing that brings the residents true joy. Thanks Sean…your writing gift is much appreciated.

    Reply
  8. Jack Quanstrum - May 15, 2018 2:56 pm

    Beautiful heat warming story! Thank you for writing and sharing it.

    Reply
  9. Ellen Shelley - May 15, 2018 4:57 pm

    We had a twenty five year love ministry at a family owned nursing home back in the 80s and 90s. What a blessing it was. To us. Oh, I guess they were blessed, too, but I was too busy being blessed to think we were doing something for them. Best. days. ever. Tuesday nights after two hard working people finished their daytime jobs, we got to go get blessed by singing songs and delivering God’s good news to such wonderful people with wonderful stories. My husband was the creator of the message and the music, I just got to reap the benefits. After we finished in the dining room, we made the rounds to our precious friends. I miss it. Thank you for the reminder. We have a precious niece who chose to be a nurse in a nursing home. It is her ministry, too as well as her way to make a living. I am so glad she is there for the residents. That is a true hero, too!

    Reply
  10. Janet Mary Lee - May 15, 2018 5:52 pm

    God Bless Jeremy! And i know he does! And god Bless all the people who serve like him.We all need that touch, don’t we? And bless those residents, and all like them…..A beautiful reminder!

    Reply
  11. Laura - May 15, 2018 6:11 pm

    Jeremy truly is an angel! Oh, and you are, too! I was feeling a bit sad. I retired from nursing last year to care for my elderly Mother who has dementia. (She is like Davy- does not remember from day to day or even hour to hour.) I know some of this might sound weird, but I miss holding patients’ hands, crying and praying with families as a loved one passes or struggles as they near death. I miss singing with some who express their love that way. I thought I would miss the resuscitations that bring someone in cardiac arrest back or the stopping bleeding in the ER from a patient’s major laceration, but I was wrong; that is not what I miss at all.

    Reply
  12. Ann Marie - May 15, 2018 6:19 pm

    I bring my Bailey to the nursing home and my students love sending cards and letters. One of my students now has a pen pal!

    Reply
  13. H. Shelton Armour - May 15, 2018 6:50 pm

    God bless Jeremy and all those like him. The world really needs them.

    Reply
  14. Patricia Gibson - May 15, 2018 6:53 pm

    Amen!!

    Reply
  15. Debbie - May 15, 2018 7:13 pm

    Oh, Sean…my mother had Alzheimer’s and lived in an assisted living for 8 years. She did love singing hymns. I took my iPod with me one day when I was visiting her, set her in her rocker, put the earbuds in her ears, and turned on the gospel music. Her head went to bobbin’ in time to the music. Then I set about little tasks around her room. I went down the hall and as I was returning, I heard her singing as loud as she could, and just a grinnin’! Music feeds the soul…your stories do the same!

    God bless people like Jeremy!

    Reply
  16. Connie H. - May 16, 2018 1:12 am

    There are good people all over this world…you and Jeremy are a couple of them! Thank you for your stories.

    Reply
  17. muthahun - May 16, 2018 1:54 am

    God bless Jeremy and all those who are kind to folks in nursing homes.

    Reply
  18. Jack Darnell - May 16, 2018 2:25 am

    You rolla good one out every post. THANKS, Life is good! Wish I could play the piano!

    Reply
  19. CKD - May 16, 2018 10:05 am

    Jeremy is wonderful! And so are you for introducing him to us.

    Reply
  20. Kate V - May 16, 2018 1:43 pm

    My grandmother was a flower guild volunteer at the Dunwoody United Methidist Church. Every Sunday we visited her she made us go early to church in time to visit the senior Sunday school class. She reminded us not everyone got to see and talk to beautiful granddaughters in Sunday dresses and how happy it could make people. We would also wait until after the service. Take down the alter flowers, divy them into jars, and go to the nursing home nearby that had some church members. She would have us walk room to room and deliver flowers. We had to have polite conversation, hold hands, hug. She would remind us no matter what we saw (or smelled) in those rooms we should smile and be gracious and make those elders feel a little better. Most of those people were bed ridden. We did this from when I was a little girl until my grandmother passed away. On my wedding day, before I left for my honeymoon, I hand delivered all of my wedding flowers to a local nursing home – the best way I knew to honor my grandmother and share some wedding joy. We all should spend more time playing pianos and delivering flowers to our seniors.

    Reply
  21. Fran Keller - May 16, 2018 4:16 pm

    Blessings just pour from your vignettes. Thank you

    Reply

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