I was the nursing instructor for students who were having their clinical experiences at the local nursing home. When we walked onto the unit, I heard various sounds.
I heard someone yelling. I heard a nurse talking in soothing tones. I heard call bells ringing. I heard the sound of a medicine cart with a squeaky wheel. Many things contributed to the symphony of sound.
But above it all came the sound of an elderly resident, who was calling out to anyone who came near her, “I love you.” Her name was Emma (named changed for privacy).
Emma, like many others, had forgotten many things in her life. Even her verbal expression had decreased to just one choice sentence. It was the sentence she had loved to hear earlier in her life. It was the sentence she had enjoyed giving as a gift to those she loved.
All Emma seemed to remember was the sentence, “I love you.”
I stood and watched her pour from what seemed an inexhaustible supply of Love. But what was even more amazing were the reactions of those to whom she freely gave her Love.
Some ignored her and walked on by. Some seemed afraid or perhaps even disgusted. They moved to the other side of the hall and never looked at her.
There were those who tried to silence her. One staff member harshly told her to hush and added, “No one wants to hear you going on like that.” No matter how Emma was treated, she only responded with, “I love you.”
Some staff kindly tried to distract her by talking to her about other things. However, Emma could not be rebuffed, distracted or dissuaded. She stuck to her one mission — to give Love.
There were others, who stopped and looked at her. Some spoke politely and moved on. But there was one young girl, who stopped and knelt down at her feet. She did not know this elderly resident at all. But she looked directly into her eyes and said, “I love you too.”
Emma’s whole body seemed to fill with peace and joy. The young girl took Emma’s hand and held it for awhile. Then she gently hugged her and left. Emma, having received a fill up of Love, returned to her mission of distributing it.
Before I moved on, I witnessed a true miracle. Others who had seen the moving encounter called out to Emma as they passed, “I love you.” Some others stopped and touched her hand and responded to Emma’s Gift of Love with, “I love you too.”
One of those who stopped later told me her husband had died the year before and she had no family. She said it was the first time in over a year that anyone had told her they loved her. She said it felt good to say those words again to someone.
Every time we were at the nursing home, my students and I filled Emma’s Love cup with more Love. I looked forward to the days we would see her. No matter what was happening in our lives, we knew we could depend upon the one, who we came to call “the Love Lady,” to give us unconditional Love.
After the clinical rotation was over, the students often spoke of “the Love Lady.” It was clear she had taught them a lesson they might never have gotten elsewhere. It was a lesson they were not apt to forget.
I saw a staff member from the nursing home some time later. I asked her how Emma was doing. She told me Emma had died. She said, with tears in her eyes, “And you know what her last words were before she just went to sleep?” I cried too, as we said it together, “I love you.”
A World Starving for Love
How many of us would be so bold to tell people we love them? How many people have been in our lives who simply needed some affirmation or extension of God’s Love, and yet we hesitated? We were busy. We got distracted by things we thought were higher priority. We were afraid of what their response might be.
We will probably never know how many people turned to acts of violence trying to take the Love they had never received from others. How many people just wanted to stop the Love they saw, but thought they could never have?
And yet, some do not have Love because they never learned how to receive Love. How willing are we to receive Love, even from those we know? Do we always think Love comes with a price tag or that the giver has an ulterior motive? Would we ever accept Love from a stranger?
In some ways we live in a sterilized world, where we seek to keep other people at a “safe distance.” We let them into our space only when we choose to. We enter their space only when we choose to.
How would you have responded to an old lady who simply wanted to give you Love? Would you have received it? Would you have returned it?
The Face of God
Who was Emma? Most people would have seen her as just a demented old lady. But if we had looked closer, we might have looked past the outside cover and seen The One Who spoke from inside her.
God loves us unconditionally. He comes to us in multiple ways, always saying the same thing, “I love you.” No matter how many times we try to ignore Him or deny He is talking to us, He stays on His Mission — to let us know He loves us.
When we are willing to stop, bend down in humility and look up into His Face, we will hear Him talking directly to us. “I love you.” What will you say in reply?
If you find that you love Him too, and you receive All The Love He has for you, will you share it?
The wonderful thing about the Fountain of True Love is that it never runs dry. No matter how much you give away, there is always more for you to enjoy!
Listen! Above all the noise of your life right now, He calls to you —
“I love you! I LOVE you! I love YOU!” He never demands a response, but you may be sure that He will be overjoyed if you can say from your heart, “I love You! I love You too!”
I have loved you with an Everlasting Love …
We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19