Dear God: Letters from a Nursing Home: Mary- Ellen Low
When you open this book and turn to the first letter that was written by the author you enter a world that many find foreign, frightening and unknown. Many people each day enter the doors of different nursing homes and assisted living facilities hoping to find some consolation, understanding and heartfelt compassion from those working there and the many residents that they encounter. But, not every story has a happy ending and not every letter that you will read in this collection of letters to God will invoke laughter, joy or hope. Some will ask God why they are still here and hope that will join him in heaven. Some will praise him and thank him for the wonderful care they are receiving in the home they are living in. Others will find it hard to give up their independence and have to depend on others just to take care of their basic needs. One little girl named Nikki inspires so many when she visits her Nana and draws a picture of her dog and presents it to one of the patients who treasures it. Letters to God reveals what many experience living in a nursing home or working there. One woman describes the cruelty she received from two CNR’s who made fun of her because of her weight. Another discusses her feelings being present when a man died and how special she felt when asked to prepare him for his funeral.
There are so many voices that are heard within the pages of this book. Some provide humor others will bring tears to the reader’s eyes and some will give you hope as one man decides to remarry in her 80’s and another, a total inspiration started a tutoring program helping two people improve their reading skills. Meet Laura and hear her words as she speaks to her daughter and shares a special letter on pages 111-112. Each sentence is not only inspiring but would help any young person deal with the loss of a parent and the hope for a bright future. A letter from Ellie really hit home as she visits her brother each day and is asked by a staff member of the home why she does this. Her response and her feelings are truly remarkable and the fact that this staff member did not really know just how much her brother had accomplished or even know him as a person really says something about some of the people working in this particular home. But the letter that really hits home is the one from Sissy because she reminds me of my mother in so many ways. Never giving up on herself, having the desire to keep going and make something more of her life even though she’s in a wheelchair is truly heartwarming and inspiring. Not only that but to teach someone who needs help in reading, which is what I did for so many years, is so more than just giving back to society it is opening up new worlds and new opportunities for the person being tutored. The nursing staff at this home is truly special as they created a special place for her do tutor. The nursing home art class made the diplomas. But, her special Bucket Not Quite Full list will spark anyone to ignite their minds and find different ways to explore more avenues and feel productive. Good job Sissy!
A letter about Lucy describes how one nursing staff rallied to the bedside of a dying friend and co-worker helping her forget about her illness, talk about old times and know that she is truly loved. Dawn Low must have been really special to have so many come so far and her name included on this special blanket in the home that you can see on page 103. A letter from Bonnie’s friends will bring tears to your eyes as they celebrate her live with a huge picnic and smile, laugh, cry and enjoy their remembrances about this special friend promising to do the same everyone in this group when the time comes.
Dear God: Sidney would like a huge juicy steak, slice of apple pie and hopes you can find a way to fill his request. This letter from Sidney is really quite humorous as he remembers and shares his visits to a small hole in the wall Greek Restaurant and the delicious apple pies. Poor Sidney really misses these pies and we all know that the nursing home cooks could never even come close. Up to you whether he gets is request. Next, Dear God we have a special letter from Virginia which is more like a list of all the things she wants to share with you and why she loves you and let’s start with number 5: I love to laugh. Laughing just brightens your face and Virginia smiling and laughing makes everything seem better. How about my favorite; I enjoy learning new things every day. I do too. Number 8 find out what she says about the world of computers and how amazing she is and how she suffers with a serious illness but it is not getting her down. Don’t count her out because Virginia is here to stay!
I truly love the letter from Julie where she tells about joining the Outreach Program at her church. Reading to an elderly blind woman brings her joy as she reads from the Bible. A married couple has touched her heart as she states in her letter but what is really quite loving and remarkable is what she sees and describes on page 128. Finding out that this particular scene is their daily naptime and the love they share for so long is more than just heartwarming. Twenty-four year old Julie learned a lot from observing Joe and Ida but the ending to this letter you have to read for yourself to find out what an impact it really made.
Dear God: The letter that really hit home for me is the one from Arianne. My mom had Alzheimer’s but she was at home for the ten years with homecare that was amazing. But, reading about her father brought back memories of her last days in the hospital when she came down with pneumonia and a clot in her lung. Feeding tubes, respirators and heart monitors allowed her to stay alive but the one thing that never dimmed or failed was her spirit and those blue eyes that opened wide whenever I came to visit or called her name. As Arianne writes what she does when visiting her dad, she is so right when she feels that he somehow knows it is she and the sadness of this illness breaks your heart. Describing the past and what she remembers about her childhood brings to light just how special her father was and still is to Arianne. Taking her to her first Girl-Scout father –daughter dance must have been fun. Doing to the local Dairy Queen for banana splits priceless. The picture that the illustrator true worth more than a 1000 words. It is hard to watch someone who was once so vibrant and vital fade away into himself or herself living in a world that only they understand and cannot communicate to others. Describing her son and knowing that his attributes are in him is quite consoling. Read the rest of the letter and make sure you have some tissues. The most poignant letter is the one written by Jeff to God about his wife Anne and their life together. How about these two 86 years young and still just as in love as the day they met when they were 17. Read Dear God: Letters from the Nursing Home. Some are positive and others negative. Some are uplifting and others quite sad. But one thing I will say is that this is quite an enlightening read and I for one recommend that everyone young, older, middle aged, teens and young adults read this book because each letter presents its own special lesson learned by the person writing it to you Dear God.
Dear God: Life is precious and we all need your support, guidance and love. A letter from Belle inspires others not to isolate themselves when in a home and how this experience can foster relationships that she never expected. The letters are about real experiences and written to God letting him know what they appreciate, what they hope for and in some cases wanting to go home. Author Mary-Ellen Low has been a nurse as I read on the back cover for more than 30 years in a long-term care facility. The illustrator Nicole Rose creates so many amazing pictures bringing the letters and their writers to life. At the end of the book the author includes Odds and Ends beginning with Pearls of Wisdom from the Nursing Home. You are going to have to find out what these gems are when you read the book. Okay: I will give you just one: “You’re never too old to share a smile, make a new friend and fall in love.” The rest will bring more than just a smile to your face and warm your heart. The next section is quite priceless as the includes Ten Things her nursing training never prepared her for when working in Long-Term Nursing Care. These are important for all nurses in whether in long-term care, hospital care, hospice or an aide working with a patient at his/her home. Read pages 146- 149 and really focus on number ten. Thank you Nicole for your insight. The most difficult thing is to decide what to bring someone in a nursing home and special ideas are shared on pages 150- 152. Finally, she includes recipes shared by the nursing staff to make their time special and their meals even better. These tasty recipes will make any reader want to join them for one of their meals.
One great book filled with so many special letters. Each letter written from the heart, told in the voice of the letter writer and addressed to God letting him know how much they need his love, support, guidance and how they appreciate knowing he is always there.
Fran Lewis: reviewer