Most Americans never think about the fact that Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in Jamaica. In fact, it’s only been the past few years that the local restaurants advertise a special meal to tourists for this day. ACE was fortunate enough to participate in what we would call a real Thanksgiving event just days before we sit down to a marvelous dinner with family and friends.
Mr. Irons is a relatively new resident who has some unknown sickness. Since ACE visits and feeds our infirmary residents three times a week, we see new men and women arriving quite often. As we got to know Mr. Irons a little better, we began to talk about simple topics like his family, where he is from, what he used to do, etc.
As the conversation went on, the question came, “Do you have any children?” Almost immediately, tears began to stream down his face as he began to cry. We sat and waited. The answer was soft, but we could still understand him… “Yes, I have four boys, one 16 and the others are triplets, they are 10.”
He paused. “And I long to see them.”
Speeding forward and with a little detective work, we located the family. They live in the Highgate area with their mother. With the mother’s permission, we picked up the boys and brought them to the infirmary to see their father, who undoubtedly looked much different to them. He was overcome with the joy of seeing his sons. The time was short as children are really not supposed to be at the infirmary, but the visit was good.
As we dropped the boys off at the taxi stand and gave them some taxi and food money, my mind still needed to sort out what had just happened. Did we do the right thing? Was it worse to not see each other in the condition their father was in, or was it what was needed to remind them that their father loves them and misses them? We’re not sure, but the last words the oldest son said to us as he got out of the bus were, “Thank you. I will come back next Friday.” And for that, we are thankful…
Thanksgiving comes in many different size packages. Find the joy where you least expect it.
I know that we are not supposed to have favorites when it comes to family members, but really and truly, I think that is just a myth someone made up. We all have certain people we just like or love a little more. And I guess I’m no exception.
I enjoy going to the infirmary alone on Saturday evenings with a big pot of coffee, condensed milk, chocolate, and a dozen cups. It’s this time of the week and day when I can see God at His best in me. I’m a member of what I call the “Old Men’s Club”. Granted I’m a little old, but being a woman, I suppose it’s good enough for me to stay in the club. After all, I have the coffee. Most of the time, we all hang out on the back veranda of the men’s ward and talk about life, the good, the bad, and the best times. Today was no different except for the fact that my favorite person in our little coffee club has throat cancer.
Ever since July, I’ve seen him losing weight. He complains about the food (which, who doesn’t) and, really, I kind of ignored him. Then, two weeks ago, he didn’t seem himself and asked if I could get him to a dentist to look at his tooth. Being the Doctor Wannabe that I am, I got my flashlight and had him open his mouth for me to check. No tooth. In fact, nothing. He insisted it was his tooth. I called our local dentist and asked if he would stop in and see my friend. He did and returned with a message I wasn’t prepared to hear. While he’s only giving an educated guess, he’s seen it before and suspects it’s cancer.
I know that sooner or later, we all will die, and I also know that this body is just an encasement of our Spirit, but when I told my friend what it might be, his answer was something I didn’t anticipate. He looked up into my eyes and said, “It’s okay. I know, I’m ready, and will you be back next Saturday with more coffee?” It took everything I had to answer him without a tear. I read him Romans 8, verse 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He liked it and asked if I would read the last part of that chapter, verses 38 and 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I kissed his head and did the normal, “See you later, alligator,” and left. What a guy. No wonder he is my favorite at the infirmary. He has no fear, no fret – just loved me and my cup of coffee. Thank you, Lord, for these moments. It’s really what life is all about with You.
Marla & Allen
The infirmary has always been one of my favorite ways that ACE is able to minister to the forgotten. We are there as a staff every week and are able to build relationships with the residents. Many of them aren’t able to communicate clearly, but we find our ways. One of the residents that I have gotten close with is Cassandra. She is one of the bedridden residents that can’t really speak clearly and doesn’t seem to have mentally developed completely. Nevertheless, I always share a smile with her and help her with the soup and water that we serve each week. She has started to call me Mummy, and I’m learning different ways that I can communicate with and understand her.
Over New Year’s, we had a team here to put on a music, dance and art camp for the local students while they were on holiday from school. The infirmary residents always seem to liven up when music comes to the infirmary, so we didn’t miss a chance to bring some guitars and drums while we were serving at the infirmary. When the musicians arrived to the women’s ward, I was helping one of our volunteers serve Cassandra. As we were listening to them sing for another resident, Cassandra began to say Hallelujah. I smiled and asked the guys if they knew Hallelujah? They did, and so did Cassandra. She wasn’t so familiar with the verse, but once we got to the chorus she was singing along… Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
I was moved to tears and had to walk away for a minute. Looking back at the lyrics now, I’m struck by this line: “I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain. On my knees, I call your name. Here’s my broken hallelujah.” Truer words cannot be said for Cassandra and for the rest of the residents at the infirmary. These are people who have seen terrible pain and they continue to experience it, and yet there they are bringing joy to myself and hundreds of others.
I will never forget hearing Cassandra singing the chorus for us that day. Needless to say, she still calls me Mummy… and sometimes she calls me Hallelujah.
Summer is here, and we have started our field trips each week with the infirmary residents to the Galina Breeze Pool for physical therapy. This is always a spectacular day for everyone. I had no idea how cherished it was until recently, when we were painting the outside of the men’s ward at the Centre. Christopher, who some of you may know, asked if he could help. With some hesitation, he was given a paint brush and a little paint.
Before long, several other residents joined him in their request to paint. Soon, we were looking like salt and pepper hitting a massive wall of color. It was hard work but fun as we saw so many of our golden children participating in painting “their” wall. At the end of the day, we were all covered in paint.
That’s when Christopher handed me this simple note, as I was leaving for the hotel: “Thank you for the field trip.” At first, I thought it was the pool therapy he was referring to, but he had not been to the pool yet this year. That’s when I realized that, sometimes, field trips can be right in the yard of the infirmary. It was actually his day of painting on his wall that broke up the monotony of the day, and fresh purpose was created. It made me smile and enjoy the moment of play.
Yes, summer has begun – come play with us at ACE! It brings out the kid in you again and certainly gives all our golden children at the infirmary purpose.
Marla and Allen
So many times, our infirmary friends ask us to send them a picture of themselves with a volunteer friend. And so many times, our wonderful volunteers forget.
But this month, thanks to our friends at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville and Cokesbury in Knoxville, our infirmary patients were beaming….
Marla had the joyful experience of sharing the pictures with about ten residents and, wow, they were happy! Giving full smiles with or without teeth, you could tell they were so excited.
Thank you, friends, for taking the time to write the notes and send the pictures. It’s just another way you make the lonely feel part of a bigger family.
Many times unexpected things happen in Jamaica, and this is no exception. Last week our little friend Sharon at the infirmary took up a new residence in heaven. Sharon had enjoyed our volunteers as seen here with Brice and the pool therapy sessions just a few weeks earlier.
I visited last week and saw Sharon slumped down in her chair. It appeared that she had a stroke and went down from there. We all know that death is a certainty, but it’s never expected…. We would love for you to send us your pictures and memories you have with Sharon, and thank you all for your love and kindness towards her when you visited the infirmary.
Summer is a wonderful time for children, students, and yes, even our golden kids – our infirmary residents.
Since the middle of May, ACE has been taking the infirmary residents for water therapy every Thursday to none other than the Galina Breeze Hotel swimming pool! For those of you who used to take part in this great afternoon of therapy, you may remember us going to Pagee Beach outside of Port Maria.
Between the sand, the seaweed and the bug bites, we made the decision to bring them to the crystal clear salt water pool on the hotel property. What a winning decision that was! We put plastic chairs in the shallow end, and voila – our residents begin kicking their feet, moving their arms and hitting the big beach balls back and forth. It is a fabulous time to be a kid again!
Several of our residents left the pool and picked up the game of ping pong, better known as table tennis here on the island. We are still in the lead on scores, but, hang on, things could change next month as the continued movement therapy is renewing both mind and balance.
Jamaica celebrated Labor Day on May 23rd. In observance of this holiday, Jamaicans like to do something to benefit the community like paint the police station or clean out curb gutters, and ACE installed fans at the infirmary. For those who have visited the infirmary, you know how hot it can become inside the room where most of the residents sit all day.
Thanks to our medical team who took the day to contribute, the infirmary has fans a-blowin’ to cool down those hot days. Our nurses and other healthcare volunteers were busy at the same time painting the frame work around the screens we installed a few months ago. Even Doctor Baribeau learned how to do fan installation. He said he had some to do at home and thought this was a good tutoring lesson.
Thank you to everyone who committed to sending funds to purchase these fans. The total price came out to $360US dollars plus $50 for installation. We look forward to receiving the money that you committed for this project and invite you to come enjoy the fresh breeze moving through the Infirmary, thanks to your generosity!