She lived up to her name the other day…
Cora Eve… Maiden, Giver of Life.
We were visiting my grandmother in the hospital. In a ward where most of the patients are elderly women with dementia, we were the only ones there during visiting hours…
It’s a sad place. Everyone has a certain eagerness painted on her face when the front door to the ward opens. Will the visitor be for me? You can see the question almost leaping from each woman’s eyes. Yet we were the only ones who walked through the door that day.
The nurses quickly escorted us back to a private visiting room. They didn’t even want to let Cora in. “One of our patients is violent,” the nurse said. But as I looked at the assortment of women in the visiting area (most with walkers or wheelchairs), I couldn’t imagine what harm might befall us and I stood my ground. “No, I’d like to take her to visit her great grandma. I have permission from her doctor.” The nurse shook her head and muttered something about me being willing to put my baby at risk. I smiled politely, hugged Cora a little tighter, and walked past the main visiting area to a private room where we could sit without being “in danger.”
My grandma shuffled in. I pulled two packs of gum out of my purse – Juicy Fruit and Spearmint – a replacement for the cigarettes she’s not allowed in this place. She sat down and we talked for a few minutes. The conversation quickly turned to Cora, and Grandma eagerly reached to hold her for a few minutes… until squirmy baby tired out old arms, and she handed her back.
The last time we had visited, Cora seemed to have found her laugh when talking with my grandma. I thought it just a fluke – her unending giggle as my grandmother smiled and talked to her. But today she did it again… as soon as she was face to face with my grandma, hearing her lilting voice and seeing her smile, Cora began laughing again. Baby laugh is the most infectious of all, so before long Grandma and I were also laughing… which just seemed to encourage Cora a little bit more. It went on and on, and I managed to capture a few minutes of it on video.
I’ve never heard her laugh like she does when she’s visiting my grandma. I don’t know what it is… but it is joy. And it is life-giving.
After a while, Grandma grew a little self-conscious. “Why does she keep laughing at me, Carrie? Does she think I look funny? I do look funny…” My grandma was stunning in her youth, but age has a way of stealing beauty, and you can sense the awkward awareness in her voice.
“Oh no, grandma,” I reassure. “She doesn’t think anything like that. She’s just a baby! She just likes your laugh and your smile.”
Proud, all of a sudden, Grandma smiles and retorts, “Well, I bet your mom is going to be jealous! If I’m the only one who can get her to laugh like that!! She must really like me.”
Yes, I assure her she really does.
Our visit ended as Cora started to grow sleepy. We went to the front door to wait for the nurse to let us out of the locked ward. As we waited, I noticed the women in the general waiting area… still sitting in such a way as to be facing the door, each wishing for another door bell and a familiar face to walk through. One caught my eye and motioned me over. I pretended not to see the nurse behind me, and walked over to the elderly woman, hunched over in her wheelchair. She lifted a finger and touched Cora’s foot. Cora smiled. We talked age and weight and whether I was still breastfeeding. The next woman in line eagerly reached out – wanting to touch the soft skin of new life. And the next… an elderly Asian woman who spoke nearly no English. I smiled and nodded when she chided me to get more blankets for Cora. After all, she could see the wind was strong out the window, even if the temperature hovered at nearly 70. Each woman touched and smiled and talked… each was rewarded with smiles and coos and maybe a bit of drool.
As we turned to walk out, it hit me. This too is significant. I still grieve China and all that we left, but if I remain open to the moments available in each and every day to bless, love, and encourage, my life will be no less rich than it was these last few years.
This child of mine already is teaching me… a smile, a soft word, and a friendly face. We have all we need to be women and men who give life to those around us.