In 2007 I was able to spend a week with some family medicine residents in Shenyang. One afternoon I went with them to a nursing home to do a health check with the residents. I was able to help out by taking blood pressure. Later, one of my friends took me to visit some of the other residents. Some were bedfast, others were in wheelchairs while some were semi-independent. One of the residents was a 93 year old lady. When I met her she was wearing a simple outfit with a vest and some earrings. At 93 this lady had a very clear mind. With the help of my friend this lady and I had a pleasant conversation. She was very curious about my life in the United States and asked several questions. When she found out I was married she asked how many children my wife and I had. When I told her we didn’t have any children she seemed surprised and said, “Meiyou haizi?” which means “No children?” I explained that we do have many nephews and nieces which are like our children. As I was getting ready to leave this lady reached out, took hold of my hand and asked “When are you coming back?” I told her that the next time I came back to China I would try and come visit her. Later, after I had returned home my friend emailed me to let me know that this lady had passed away. I’m thankful for that brief visit we had together. I still smile when I remember that sweet lady asking “Meiyou haizi?”
The people in that nursing home in China aren’t that different from those in nursing homes in this country. They look forward to visitors. With all the physical ailments that they have to deal with perhaps the worst ailment is not physical - it is loneliness. At Norway we have recently started a shut-in ministry. This is an opportunity to reach out to our shut-ins, to visit them and to let them know they are not forgotten.