They swarm Jeremy. They tell him stories. They touch him. They hug him. Everyone gets their turn.

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 at nursing homes 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. And after the song singing is done, the real fun begins.

They swarm Jeremy. They tell him stories. They touch him. They hug him. Everyone gets their turn.

“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 lady 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 because Jeremy has more people to see and he 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 whose cat just died. He hugs Francine, Martha, the Colonel, and Miss Jeanne.

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.”

Davy’s mother survived a Depression and two spouses. She raised her kids on peanuts. Davy returned the favor when she got older. 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 the old man has even 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.

“He does that every week we do a duet,” Jeremy tells me.

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

One nurse whispers to me: “Every week, it’s just like the first time for Davy.”

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 real work.

“Thank, thank…” she tells Jeremy. “Please. Come. Back.”

“Yes ma’am,” says Jeremy.

Barbara goes on: “This… Greatest day of my life.”

Jeremy’s kisses Barbara’s cheek. Then the nurse wheels her away.

The greatest day of her life.

Yes. It was one of mine, too.

31 comments

  1. Karen - May 12, 2019 10:20 am

    When you reach a certain age in America, you often become invisible and completely dismissed. Thank you for reminding us of the value in each of us.

    Reply
  2. Sandi in FL. - May 12, 2019 10:51 am

    I echo Karen’s comment above. Old people are true gems, like the expensive treasures in a jewelry store case. They need to be allowed to shine more often. Sean, thank you for doing just that in your post today. And God bless dear Jeremy for entertaining them on the piano along with showing them he cares by his kind gestures.

    Reply
  3. Warren Evans - May 12, 2019 11:32 am

    Those of us who have nursing home/assisted living ministries understand that WE are as much or more blessed than the residents of those facilities by serving them.

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  4. Connie Havard Ryland - May 12, 2019 11:34 am

    Thank you to all the Jeremy’s out there who take the time to reach out to nursing home residents. I know you visit a few yourself, so you know that some of them don’t get many visitors and are largely forgotten. God bless. Thank you for reminding us yet again that we need to be better people.

    Reply
  5. Bobbie - May 12, 2019 12:00 pm

    Smiles and tears…a bittersweet reminder. There but for the Grace of God….
    Thanks you again Sean, for your insight, your painting of pictures with words. God bless all who give so much of themselves and who have a heart for the elderly. They were young once. Time is fleeting…it is no respecter of persons.

    Reply
  6. Steve Bailey - May 12, 2019 12:14 pm

    Beautiful.

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  7. Gordon - May 12, 2019 12:36 pm

    Such a precious story, Sean. Thank you for sharing it.

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  8. Cheryl Crafton - May 12, 2019 12:37 pm

    WOW so inspiring. Thanks for sharing 💕

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  9. Kathy Wilson - May 12, 2019 12:44 pm

    Love reading your blog, you’re a very gifted writer. Thank you for sharing your gift

    Reply
  10. Jack Darnell - May 12, 2019 1:19 pm

    It is nice to see Jeremy thru your eyes and fingers. What a wonderful person to continually spread joy, and I know it does.

    Sherry & jack from NC

    Reply
  11. Teresa Tindle - May 12, 2019 1:29 pm

    I pray when my day comes I will have a Davy and a Sean!

    Reply
  12. Becca - May 12, 2019 1:36 pm

    You continue to amaze me Sean, you have helped me recover my joy in reading which I had lost due to chemo. I had struggled with concentration and would read the same paragraphs over and over with no comprehension, I had almost given up. Your stories are so captivating I could live them with you and over time I could keep the thread of my beloved books again. You rank right up there with my favorite writers with your skill to pull your readers into your work. Thank you Sean!

    Reply
    • Wendy Franks - May 13, 2019 8:08 am

      Becca, what a lovely tribute to Sean!
      May God abundantly bless you both.

      Reply
    • Sue - May 13, 2019 11:23 am

      God’s blessings Becca, so glad your love for reading is back.
      Thank you Sean for your love and goodness with words.

      Reply
  13. Brenda - May 12, 2019 1:47 pm

    Each of your stories has special meaning but this one tells of meaningful gifts to our elders that can’t be beat! Thank you for the reminder!

    Reply
  14. Helene - May 12, 2019 1:58 pm

    You’re a good man, Charlie Brown!!!

    Reply
  15. Joe Patterson - May 12, 2019 2:02 pm

    Thanks again

    Reply
  16. Donna - May 12, 2019 2:19 pm

    Thank You for sharing God’s Grace.

    Reply
  17. Carol Hallstrom - May 12, 2019 2:53 pm

    Yesterday I went to a Mother’s Day brunch at our church. The speaker spoke about kindness, how we can and do show kindness in our lives. Your heart shows kindness repeatedly and this essay gave us a look at how kindness is received. God bless you Sean.

    Reply
  18. Tim House - May 12, 2019 2:55 pm

    Some people have full hearts, because they give their full heart… <3

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  19. Shelton A. - May 12, 2019 5:20 pm

    Jeremy is one of God’s angels here on earth…he may be a man but he has an angels heart and soul. God bless him and praise God for him and those like him. Thanks for a great Mom’s Day writing.

    Reply
  20. Barbara Pope - May 12, 2019 6:37 pm

    What a friend they have in Jeremy!

    Reply
  21. Rebecca Brey - May 12, 2019 6:40 pm

    Wonderful stories. I feel like I’m right there. You are a really good writer!

    Reply
  22. Melanie - May 12, 2019 8:05 pm

    My mom spent a while in the home in Ozark. She passed there in October 2016. Thank you Sean for celebrating all the people who do a saint’s work with the elderly and infirmed ❤️

    Reply
  23. Charaleen Wright - May 13, 2019 4:20 am

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  24. Ginger - May 13, 2019 11:35 am

    Love this one because there was a “Jeremy” at the nursing home where my sister, Barbara, spent the last years of her life. The residents had different names, but they were virtually the same people you described. They could be you, me, us. God bless those who value them and give them value. Thanks for a good one.

    Reply
  25. Judy Broussard - May 14, 2019 1:55 am

    This world would be a lot better with more people like you and Jeremy

    Reply
  26. Janet Mary Lee - May 16, 2019 5:54 pm

    I am always so touched by your writing and the depth of heart by your readers. There is nothing else to say.

    Reply
  27. Tina Harman - June 11, 2019 6:50 am

    Beautiful article! I could see each of the residents as you described them. I hope if I go to assisted living someday, that there will be a Jeremy, a Davy, and a Sean for me. Thank you so much for reminding us not to forget older people.

    Reply
  28. turtlekid - June 11, 2019 11:14 am

    We all have different God Given talents, and when we use them to help our fellow travelers on this journey of life, we are doing what we are supposed to do! Jeremy uses music, you, Sean Paul, use words. Thank you.

    Reply

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