From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

One More Task

Eve Jesson could have been bitter, but an inner strength—and her faith—sustained her. She had been widowed at seventy, after forty-three busy years as a minister’s wife. Then she had a stroke at age seventy-four, which affected her entire left side: Her left hand and arm were weak, and she walked haltingly with a four-pronged cane. Nevertheless, her mental ability was sharp, and her independent spirit was strong.

Her daughter urged Mrs. Jesson to join their household, but she gently refused. “I don’t think it works out for the best,” she said, “but I’d love to visit you often.” She sold her home, distributed her most precious possessions among family members and moved into a nursing home where I was a caregiver. She soon became a joy to all of us on the staff. She was fastidious, thoughtful and friendly. She took part in activities, helped arrange flowers and did a bit of “mothering” here and there.

It was difficult for us to find her a suitable companion to share the two-person bedroom. Many of our residents had severe health or personality problems, or were mentally infirm. With a quiet, gentle manner and the ability to do things for herself, Margaret Gravelle seemed like a more suitable roommate than many others. While Margaret’s memory was vague, she knew she was ninety years old and had spent her life in nursing. Her only relative was her great-nephew.

Although Mrs. Jesson made few complaints about it, we knew Margaret woke her several times in the night when she was confused about sounds or the bathroom location. Mrs. Jesson had to remind Margaret of mealtimes and guide her to the dining room. Margaret could not grasp the notion that only one of the closets was hers and the other was for her roommate. One day a nurse aide brought Margaret back into their room to change her blouse from the one of Mrs. Jesson’s she was wearing, to one of her own.

“Well, she does have good taste,” Mrs. Jesson said wryly. “That is my new silk blouse I got for my birthday.”

A day came when we had arranged for the admission of a lady we thought would be a better companion for Mrs. Jesson. “I think we can provide a more suitable roommate for you in a couple days,” I told her. “We just have to arrange to move Margaret to a different room.”

Later in the day, Mrs. Jesson came down to my desk. “Don’t move Margaret,” she said. “She really needs someone to look after her. She gets anxious in the night. She has no family and she is used to my being there.

“You know, I asked God many times why I had to go on living. When John died, I felt as if my life was finished too. But family, friends and faith all helped me. Then I had my stroke and I thought, Why damage me so and let me go on living? Well, maybe he had work for me yet. Maybe I’m meant to look out for Margaret. I can give her some of the comfort my family gives me. Leave her in my room. It won’t take that much effort to watch over her a bit.”

Leaning on her cane, that gracious lady started back down the hall to her room to carry out the last loving task he had given her.

Marian Lewis

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