A Young Boy, a Dying Old Woman and a Moment in Time

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

I wanted so badly to connect with my sister-in-law who was very close to death, but her once bright alert eyes were unresponsive. The nurse, who had seen the last days of many nursing home patients, told me that Phyllis had decided to let go. She had lived a full life but now, it was her time.

I tried again to rouse her as she sat, slumped in the wheel chair. "Phyllis! Phyllis." Her head remained down. No contact. Nothing. Then, I had an idea. If I could bring Mac to see her, I had a hunch that she would respond.

Mac is a twelve year-old boy who I know from my years at the Children's Village. I had taken him along to see my sister-in-law in happier times. The two of them always hit it off famously. Maybe a visit from Mac might help.

A bright extroverted kid, Mac is irrepressibly chatty. No doubt about it. This kid likes to talk. Fortunately, he speaks with a volume that would make any hearing aid superfluous. There is something about his child-like chatter that strikes a chord in my sister-in-law. Beyond that, the kid has a compassion for people that way beyond his chronological age. I call him an "old soul."

So, the very next day, I took Mac with me on my visit to the convalescent hospital. I was a little concerned that it would be too hard for the kid to see how Phyllis had slipped, both physically and mentally. Before I took him to her room, I asked the nurse how Phyllis was doing. "About the same," she said. Then in a sad voice, "I wish you luck; she hasn't been talking to anyone."

As it turned out, it wasn't luck we needed. We had an angel in the form of a 12 year-old kid. Her head was still down when we entered the room. I said, "Look who I brought you, your friend Mac." The boy immediately chirps up. "Hi Phyllis, it's me, Mac." Magically, her head came up and a smile of recognition suffused her face. Phyl's little friend had arrived and boy, did she know it.

Their conversation was mostly one-sided: Phyl still could not speak very well but she followed the boy with her eyes, almost as though she was trying to memorize the bright youthful face of the boy. The two of them connected seamlessly, as though the age difference of almost seven decades was completely irrelevant.

The visit was short because Phyl no longer has the stamina for a long conversation but something beautiful, even sacred, had happened in their time together. The innocence of a child had embraced a dying old woman and left his gift at her feet.