Every morning, my office phone rings around 10 am. On the other end, is the sweetest, most precious 87-year-old lady you would ever hope to talk with. She tells me about how the washing machine is sounding a bit rough, how she missed the trash truck this week and how she needs to hire some “little boys to do her yard-work.” We talk about her great great grandchildren, her ex-daughter-in-laws and people in her church. We cover a very broad range of topics, with her talking, and my listening to her. Every single day. Forty-five minutes, every single day……..
Some days, she tells me the same story that she told me the day before…..some days her stories change from the previous versions she had shared, but it’s okay with me. My responses are always unchanged, as I agree with her, validate what she is saying and simply listening to her.
You see, this sweet lady is lonely. Her husband of 68 years lives in my facility…..with dementia. She tells me all about their life “back in the day”; the places they lived, the meals he would cook her, his military service…. You can tell how much she loves him by the fondness in her voice. While listening to her stories, she always speaks of her husband in the past tense. “He was such a good man”, is a phrase I hear her say at least three times a week during our chats.
My staff all know two things at 10 am each morning. They know I will take the phone call, regardless of the chaos of the early morning, and secondly, that I will sit and listen to her patiently until she is done talking. The brave few employees that know this morning ritual have asked “why” I “allow her to ramble on and take up my time.” The reason is simple. This lady has lost the single most important person in her life. She has lost the relationship she had with the person who she could vent her frustrations to about missing the trash truck; speak ill about her ex daughter-in-laws and discuss her great-grandchildren with. She has lost the person who would listen to her worries, her fears and frustrations. She sits alone in a big house, with no one to talk to, day in, day out. Forty-five minutes of my time gives her an outlet to be heard, to know that someone is listening, and that someone cares. 45 minutes.
I think we all should have such a person in our lives like her. A person who makes us appreciate those who listen to us as we ramble on. A person who makes us realize that we too, may be alone in a big house one day, wishing we had someone we could call and talk to, just for a little while……
Remember this. Nothing is ever more important than making a person feel loved, valued and cared for. Even if it’s only for 45 minutes a day……….