While visiting my father in the nursing home as he battled the relentless enemy Alzheimers, I walked past an elderly lady resting in her room on a typical hospital bed with worn metal rails. She seemed to be lost in faded memories of yesteryear. I noticed a large dark wood dresser with an oval mirror that was held up by two long curved arms on each side. Covering scuffed marks from decades of use, was a white floral crochet runner. An antique green hand mirror with painted delicate pink flowers, danced around the edge along with a matching hair brush. A mixture of long blonde and silver strands intertwined together in the soft bristles. I glanced up to see on both sides of her treasured family heirloom, tiger wood oval frames with non-smiling family dressed in 1800’s attire.
One small vintage frame with a black and white photo caught my eye. Inside was a photo of a little blonde girl around the age of 5 tightly clutching a larger than life plush rabbit and a slight smile on her tiny dimpled face. Her eyes shyly peered as a large satin bow in her hair competed for space.
A passing nurse saw me standing there and stopped to say hello. I asked her about the old dark dresser. She said that it was Miss Betsy’s grandmothers, the brush set belonged to her mother. She pointed to the big pink bunny half laying on the chair next to the dresser and informed me it was Miss Betsy’s when she was a small child. I could see it was the same bunny that the pretty little girl in the photograph was hugging, but was now missing a button eye!
The busy nurse walked away to redirect another lost patient who only wanted to go home. I stared at Miss Betsy sleeping peacefully as her family lovingly stared down at her from the walls. I paused as I realized this would be Betsy’s last home here on this side of eternity.
I was drawn inside, not to intrude, but to say a quiet prayer for this elderly lady who at one time freely danced, laughed and loved during a time when life was simple, where Model-T Fords sputtered down one lane streets paved with red bricks.
She opened her eyes, saw me standing there, and smiled. I was a bit embarrassed to be caught in her room…a complete stranger. Betsy got up on her elbows, her long silver hair falling back onto her pillow. She weakly said hello. I apologized for breaking the calm and turned to walk away. As I retreated, Betsy gingerly pulled her frail body out of bed and stood in front of the antique dresser staring at a century of family laughter, tears, triumphs, tragedy, secrets, and unforgettable memories hidden deep inside the wooden drawers that now creaked when opened. As she picked up her faded green hair brush and ran her fingers through the soft white bristles, I could see a lone tear weave it’s way through years of life, now in forms of wrinkles down her sad face. She then lifted her eyes looking deeply into the mirror and I followed her gaze.
What I saw shocked me! I didn’t see an elderly lady…I saw a beautiful young woman with golden blonde hair, piled up on her head with long curls framing her smooth face. She had sparking blue eyes with a grin that would melt any young man’s heart in a matter of seconds! I watched her form in the mirror fade away in a swirling mist. As I willed my eyes to focus, I saw in that mirror a tall handsome man with jet black wavy hair, he had olive skin with big brown eyes that shouted romance that could’ve swept up any woman with that look!
I closed my eyes tight telling myself that I needed more sleep. I looked again. The elderly lady was still standing at her dresser, her aged hand touching the cool glass. The dashing young man still stood waiting with an extended arm out and finger tips touching hers through the glass! I looked a little closer and saw that he was holding a toddler around the age of two, a sweet little boy with wavy blonde hair, his eyes matching the color of his mothers. I could see that he was giggling, waving at Miss Betsy. The family stood there together, the aged wife and mother on one side, the young husband and child on the other.
Miss Betsy caught my reflection in the mirror so she turned around to speak to me. I sat on her bed wondering if I should confess to her that I’m seeing things. She slowly walked over, sat next to me, took my smooth hands in her wrinkled ones and gently rubbed her arthritic fingers across mine. She smiled at me, those baby blues shone with life. She cheerfully told me that she would soon be joining her husband and little boy.
She then bowed her head and tearfully recounted how they were taken away from her in a tragic car accident 67 years ago today and how she has been waiting for her time on earth to end so she could be reunited with her family. She also told me that everyday, she searches for her beloved family inside the mirror of the treasured dresser. It was the last gift given to her on Valentine’s day from the love of her life, her handsome husband of 3 short years, it belonged to his mother.
She tightly closed her eyes, lifting her face to the ceiling. Her smile smoothed out the lines of age. In a soft whisper she called out to the Lord, reminding Him that she was ready to go home, how her heart yearned to be reunited with her husband and child that her arms have been aching to hold again as she fondled the simple wedding band that was placed on her finger 70 years ago. I quietly got up and tiptoed to the door, I refused to interrupt her precious prayer to the One who would soon come for her.
I cried on the way home. I prayed for Miss Betsy, asking God to hurry in taking her home. I cried thinking about my own mother who still loves the husband that doesn’t remember her…my mother loves him just as much as Betsy still loves her husband. The one memory she refuses to let go.
I learned that love doesn’t fade away, that some wounds can never heal with time, that life can be tucked away inside an old tired dresser with its top stained by daily tears, dented with pounding fists that screamed out anguish, and scratches made by a red metal firetruck as a little boy sat on it watching mommy apply her make up. I found that this antique dresser, as with many others, can tell you a story just by running your fingers along the top feeling the scuff marks and chipped off paint. You can almost hear the laughter by opening up a drawer. And, by looking in the mirror, one can almost see the faces of people who spilled tears, who smiled with joy, displayed anger…emotions of the people that this dresser touched in their lives. I was blessed to be a part of this hurting woman’s life…even if it was for ten short minutes.