Loneliness and a sense of futility can be among the greatest challenges experienced by the elderly and/or infirm. Among other CMC services, the CMC’s “Friendly Visiting” program uplifts these individuals, touching and enriching their lives in an incredible way.
When Anna’s elderly husband died, she was left alone, without any children and with very little family. For years she maintained herself and the apartment on her own, eking out her daily routine one task at a time. Her life was inconspicuous but independent, and the dignity and purpose that she found in being self-sufficient helped to obscure her isolation and hold her loneliness at bay.
As time wore on however, Anna became increasingly beset by frailty and illness. After a number of falling incidents that required hospitalization, her doctor stated that it was simply too dangerous for her to continue living alone. Anna’s nephew took on the role of her power of attorney, and he moved her into a suburban nursing home, far from Anna’s former neighborhood and community.
The nursing facility provided good care, and was clean, bright and welcoming. Nevertheless, moving there dealt Anna a great psychological blow, precipitating a marked decline in her mood, energy, and overall sense of well-being. Anna felt very little connection with the other nursing home residents, the majority of whom were from a different religious and cultural background. And although her nephew kept in touch and paid her regular visits, Anna was deeply unhappy. Her circumstances left her feeling empty and disconnected, drifting in a foreign and unfamiliar world.
Without much to do, and having very little in common with the people around her, Anna developed a tendency to withdraw into her memories, both pleasant and painful. She would dwell on memories of her sister, her parents, and her former married life. But even in these thoughts Anna could not escape her overwhelming sense of loneliness and futility. It seemed to her that she was out of place and useless, and that she had nothing left to live for. Indeed, during those days she would often talk about death and dying. She stated that she didn’t fear it – in fact, she wouldn’t mind if G-d would call her soul back to heaven without further delay.
However – as Anna herself now acknowledges – G-d had other plans for her. Recognizing Anna’s needs, staff members at the nursing home called the CMC, asking for a rabbi to visit and connect with her. As it turned out, this simple request became a big turning point in Anna’s life. Within a very short time, Rabbi Jaworowski’s much-anticipated weekly visits became the fixture around which the rest of Anna’s week revolved. These visits gave her the opportunity to talk, to be understood, and to feel connected with her cultural and religious heritage, with her family and with her past. As well, the visits made her feel appreciated in the present too as a valued member of the community.
Since there were no Jewish books or other educational resources at the nursing home, the rabbi brought Anna a simple yet comprehensive work on Jewish history, belief and practice. Anna treasured the gift, and decided to keep it in a bag that stays permanently by her side, hanging on her walker. Now, several times each day, Anna lovingly retrieves the book from the bag and exerts herself to study a few pages at a time, overcoming her poor eyesight and disregarding the physical energy and mental effort that it takes.
Now, at each weekly visit with Rabbi Jaworowski, Anna proudly reports what she has learned from the book during the week gone by. Together they discuss the material and derive lessons, sharing stories and smiles too. Thus, thanks to the CMC, Anna now feels the color and joy returning to her life, and purpose infused in each day. And although she still doesn’t fear death, she now feels renewed appreciation for the precious gift of life, and cherishes each and every additional day.