Monday 22 October 2012

Father Ignatius in hospital

Father Ignatius had visited his parishioners in hospital so many times that he was now well known by the medical staff and the nurses. So it came as no surprise to him when one afternoon he was phoned by the Hospital Ward Matron and asked to come over as quickly as possible.

Agatha Dartford had been admitted to hospital by ambulance and she was asking for him by name.

Agatha was 93 years old and three years ago, being no longer able to look after herself, she had to leave her lovely cottage in the countryside and she was moved by her family to the Green Meadows Home for Senior Citizens.

She lost her independence that day, as well as all the lovely memories which her little cottage in the country contained.

She had moved in that little house many years ago just after marrying her husband. She raised her family there; all five of them who have now grown up and moved to other towns and cities far away with their own families.

The day she moved to Green Meadows was a dark day indeed in her life. She knew it was the logical thing to do of course; but sometimes logic really hurts. There’s no way that a frail person like her could look after herself alone in the countryside. So her family decided to sell her cottage and most of the furniture and other items which they did not want and moved her to the Home more through coercion than love.

“It’s better for you Mom. They can look after you better there; and you’ll have company with other people …” they said; “Green Meadows will provide you with all you need and you won’t have to cook or clean or do any of the household chores anymore. Aren’t you lucky Mom … it will be wonderful!”

But Agatha liked to cook for herself, and to eat when she wanted, sleep when she wanted and do as she wishes; rather than be regimented in a home with other people.

Yet; old age teaches you patience and it teaches you to accept what is inevitable and outside your control.

She was rather weak and in poor health so it seemed logical to have someone care for her; but wouldn’t it have been nice to live with one of her children and enjoy the company of her grand-children and see them grow up!

“We’ll come and visit you often …” was no substitute to living with her family and share their lives and dreams and hopes. To see them every day in good times and bad and to share their lives together.

Her children had all done well in life and all had large houses which could have easily accommodated her; but she’d be in the way no doubt and would cramp their successful lifestyles. They’d made that plain enough; even though they never actually said it.

So, reluctantly she accepted their decision and did move to Green Meadows; and indeed they did look after her very well in there. The personnel were very kind and helpful, including the nurses and medics whenever she needed them.

As for her family … yes … they visited her as promised … about once a year or so.

She was fortunate enough to have befriended Father Ignatius who used to visit another resident at Green Meadows.

So he visited her regularly about once a week and sometimes he brought her some of her favorite chocolate cakes from the bakery just next to St Vincent Church. They normally chatted for about half-an-hour or so and then they recited the Rosary together before blessing her and giving her Holy Communion.

Today, however, the priest was rushing to the hospital in response to her calls for help.

When he arrived there he was greeted by the Hospital Ward Matron who knew him well. She explained that Agatha had fallen at Green Meadows Home and had bruised her arm and left side badly. She was obviously in terrible pain and the medics wanted to take some X Rays photos to check that there are no broken bones.

But Agatha would not co-operate despite her obvious pain. The nurses tried to help her prepare for the X Ray tests and she held her left arm close against her chest and would not open her hand which was closed tightly.

They asked her what she was holding but she would not respond and closed her hand tighter still; asking for Father Ignatius to come and see her.

“Thank you for calling me Denise …” said Father Ignatius to the Ward Matron, “perhaps you’ll take me to her.”

Moments later he entered Agatha’s room and the nurses in attendance left closing the door behind them.

“Hello Agatha …” said the priest gently, “you’ve given us quite a fright … tell me what happened to you …”

“I fell at the Home Father … and they brought me here by ambulance …”

“Ah … I see; any excuse to escape Green Meadows is it …” he smiled, “or is it a trick to get me to bring you some chocolate cake?”

She smiled back and her eyes brightened at the thought.

“They want me to have some X Ray photos Father … and they want to take this from me …” she added motioning her clenched hand.

“I don’t understand …” said the priest calmly.

“When I moved to Green Meadows three years ago … just after my 90th Birthday it was … I lost everything.

“My children sold my house, they sold my furniture … and took away whatever ornaments and little things I had … or got rid of what they did not want. I had some lovely porcelain ornaments Father; and they sold the lot; or took the valuable ones for themselves.

“They moved me to Green Prison … that’s what I call it … with only the clothes I was wearing. That’s the rules of that place. They provide you with everything; including your clothes you know …

“My children even took all my old photographs of my dear Ken and I when we were wed … and the photos of the children as they grew up … and every bit of souvenir and memory that I had in that little cottage were I spent all those years …

“I have nothing in this world that belongs to me …

“Except this …” she said shaking her tightly closed hand gently.

“And now the nurses want to take even this … I want to go back to my cottage Father!”

Father Ignatius hugged her gently so as not to hurt her where she was bruised and kissed her forehead.

“Now then Agatha … you know well that your cottage was out in the country … and if you were to go back there it would mean that I’ll have a terribly long drive to come and visit you … you don’t really plan to inconvenience me do you?”

“No Father …” she said smiling.

“Besides … at Green Meadows they look after you well don’t they?”

She nodded.

“And it’s so much nearer for me …to come and visit you” he smiled.

“But I tell you what … as soon as you get out of hospital I’ll arrange with the Warden at Green Meadows to take you out for a drive in the countryside and we can visit your cottage. Would you like that?”

“Yes Father …” she replied enthusiastically.

“But first we need to have these X Rays done to make sure you’re OK. Can we ask the nurses to get on with this do you think?”

She nodded.

“Would you look after this for me Father?” she asked as she opened her hand.

And there, held ever so tightly that it had imprinted itself in her palm was a finger Rosary.

“You remember you gave me this some years ago Father?” she said.

The priest nodded gently.

“It’s all I have in the world that is mine. And I use it every time we recite the Rosary together and also every day when I sit by the window watching the birds in the garden at Green Meadows.”

Father Ignatius took good care of Agatha’s finger Rosary; and returned it to her when she’d had her X Rays done.

He also kept his promise and took her for a drive in the countryside by her cottage when she was eventually discharged from the hospital fully recuperated. And he took her to her favorite bakery for chocolate cakes and tea too!


  1. Such a beautiful, yet bittersweet story! At first I worried that Father Ignatius had fallen ill! It is truly sad when people consider their parents burdens. Yet this is the age where children are considered burdens too!

    When my mother in law became bedridden in the final stages of cancer, the family kept her in her own home and did everything to keep her comfortable, even getting a hospital bed and nursing help. I would never want to put my mother in a home. She deserves all the care I can give to her since she gave me all the care she could.

    Thanks for sharing this was a tearjerker.

    God bless1

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write Lisa Maria. I much appreciate your visit here and you comments.

    It is sad that many people have no time for the elderly these days.

    God bless you and your family.

  3. Victor, This was especially touching to read as it's the very circumstance I'm dealing with in my family right now. So many challenges especially as you discern what's best for those who raised you and loved you even when it seemed no one else did. I'm trying to listen to their needs with my heart and not just my ears.

    Love the ending with the rosary ring!

    Blessings and +

  4. Thank you for your story Caroline. It's true that it's often difficult to discern what's best for elderly people; and for everyone in general sometimes.

    I am praying for you all.

    God bless.

  5. This is such a lovely story Victor! And how like some children to only visit mom or pop in the senior home once a year!

    1. Thanx Monica.

      It's sad that some people don't visit their parents often enough.

      God bless.

  6. This story brought many thoughts to mind...some of them were sad ones. How can we be too busy for the parents that have given so much of themselves to us?? But this does happen so often doesn't it Victor.

    Thank you for reminding me of what is sometimes taken for granted...God bless.

    1. Yes Daily Grace. It does happen. I've seen it often. Children grow up and have their own families and become too busy to care for their parents.

      God bless.

  7. My family was able to keep my grandmother in her own home until the day she died, thanks to my aunt who visited her often. My parents wanted to go to a room in an assisted living facility, but they were able to keep some of their own possessions, especially family pictures. Unless someone is so terribly ill they need professional nursing around the clock, I think it is best that the person live at home or with family. When someone dies, there's no do over in caring for them.

  8. So true Barbara. As best as possible people should be left to live at home.

    God bless.

  9. A touching story Victor. Thank you and God Bless.

  10. Touching, but sadly often too true.

    God bless you Michael.

  11. Lovely story. I want so much to be like Father Ignatius. When Allyson and I visit the nursing home, it's always such a blessing to us and to our friends there. But it's so hard to find the time to go regularly. This inspires me to make more of an effort.

    It also makes me wonder what we will do when my parents get to this stage. I hope my siblings and I can find a way to care for them.

    1. Sarah,

      You are like Father Ignatius. The good works you do; like visiting hospitals and walking for charity speak volumes about you.

      May God bless you always for all you do for Him.



God bless you.