By Darlene Franklin
“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.”
Whoa. Isaiah’s words brought me to an abrupt halt. My life in a nursing home often felt like an empty place.
Literally speaking, my half of a shared room in a nursing home was far from empty. The essence of six decades of life was crammed into a few square feet. Correspondence, presents, toiletries, clothes, doo-dads filled my dressers to overflowing. Family pictures and framed poetry by my daughter brightened my walls. The fifty-plus books I’d written strained my six-foot bookshelf, and my clothes crowded my half of the rod.
When we added a hospital bed, bi-pap machine, oxygen generator, walker, and laptop, my roommate and I could barely wheel through the room. My wheelchair spent the night in the hallway because it blocked my path to the bathroom. My bedtable doubled as work space and dining room.
The crowded room reminded me of what wasn’t here. My beloved cat. Shelves of family photographs. Family recipes. Daily routines varied little. How often did I get outside? How many meals excites my palate? Whom could I chat with, with a speech-impaired roommate and aides busy working?
So when I read that God wanted to give me a full life in an empty place, I jumped to attention. How could I find a full life in this place?
The answer was both simple and complex. I could have a full life because God was infinite. My circumstances didn’t limit Him.
Yesterday I expected a very empty day. My daughter should have celebrated her thirty-second birthday. Instead, she died at her own hand eight years ago.
In my quiet time, I read a quote by Cecil Murphey in Knowing God, Knowing Myself, “No matter how many times I examine the past, there’s nothing I can do to change it.” I needed that reminder to let the guilt go, and to rejoice that Jolene is waiting for me in heaven.
Running late for our mid-week Bible study, I fought the urge to get flustered and agitated-my go-to reaction when I’m stressed. Instead of muttering complaints, I stayed calm. On the way down the hall, an aide asked us to pray for her mother at our meeting. The short contact expanded my sense of belonging. Cheers greeted my arrival, since I’m the pianist. Accompanying hymns has been a life-long joy, something that cheers myself as well as others.
The pastor’s youngest daughter rushed to hug me before the song service started. Of the hymns we sang, I only knew half. But I had developed my God-given talent by playing through dozens of hymnals. Sight-reading a new one came fairly easily, and the fellow musician’s testimony touched me.
My arthritic fingers made more mistakes than they used to, but the congregation loved having the instrument. The piano made the music stronger.
The sermon, on God’s love. spoke to me more powerfully than usual. In a few recent failures, I chose anger over trusting God. Since God loved me, and I claimed to love God, my life should show it.
After the service, the little girl returned with her three sisters and all four hugged me. I returned their embrace, reminded of my own grandchildren across the country enjoying spring break. The love, freely given by the pastor’s children, met my need for human touch.
After lunch, I jumped into work, final edits on my next novella. Recently I sold another novella to a “traditional” publisher, keeping my work schedule full.
Not to mention the fact that I could work at all. There were very jobs one could do from inside a nursing home. Author happened to be one of them.
My latest order from a clothing store arrived and I got to touch and feel the soft robe and see the exact pattern of the pink and white checks. Now I can walk modestly from my room to the shower.
If the day wasn’t already full enough, I had restorative therapy for the first time in over a month. Arms and legs, back and forth, up and down, working for those “firm muscles and strong bones” that God promised in another passage.
If one day could be that full, what about tomorrow? God’s love, flowing in, through, and out of me filled my life even in empty places.
Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. This year she expects to reach fifty unique titles in print and she’s also contributed to more than twenty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears in four monthly magazines.