George was Catholic. He was 90 years old. He received the sacraments regularly and attended Mass. He lived at a nursing home with a beautiful courtyard.
Every year, a mother duck returns to this courtyard to hatch her eggs. She raises her ducklings in a couple of swimming pools, which the facility provides. They are fed and watered by the staff, and when they are big enough, they fly away.
George loved to watch and marvel at the unseen forces that enabled this migratory bird to find the same nesting place year after year.
One day during one of my visits with George, we decided to go to the courtyard window and watch the ducks play, preen and strengthen their wings for flight. It was a hot, rainy day outside, but very chilly in the nursing home. George told me one of his favorite things to do was to sit outside in the sun, just to feel the sun’s warmth on his skin. That’s when I noticed he was shivering.
I remember saying, “Oh my, George. You are cold!”
I looked for something to wrap around him. One of the staff told me they had blankets and pointed me to the “blanket oven.” I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited to bring back two warm blankets and I wrapped them around George. If you could have heard the joy in which he received that warmth, you would have thought I had delivered him a bit of heaven.
We decided that heaven must be something like wrapping up in a warm blanket, right out of the oven, on a cold and rainy day.
All warm and comfortable, George, without prompting began to sing an old hymn called, “God Will Take Care of You.”
Through every day, in every way, God will take care of you …
At first, I just listened, moved by his beautiful voice. Then I couldn’t help but join him. After that we sang, “Amazing Grace.”
When it was time to go, I told the nurse I was leaving and George was in his wheelchair by the window. On my way by, just a few minutes later, he was fast asleep.
I thought to myself, yes George; heaven comes to us in so many ways … in the ducklings as they grow strong in a child’s swimming pool, in the warmth of an oven-baked blanket, in the sheer pleasure of a simple gift, and in the heartfelt offer of an old hymn.
Heaven comes, in the very ordinariness of life, often hidden in plain view.
Following this visit, I contacted George’s family to tell them about my time with him. They were appreciative of the added attention George was receiving through hospice care and loved to be updated on such special moments. George died shortly thereafter. I was grateful to witness glimpses of heaven in my moments with George.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
In 1981, Hospice of the Red River Valley was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality end-of-life care. We fulfill our nonprofit mission by providing medical, emotional, personal and spiritual care, as well as grief support to our patients, their families and caregivers during a tender time in life. Our staff helps those we serve experience more meaningful moments through exceptional hospice care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wherever a patient calls home. The organization serves more than 40,000 square miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, including in and around Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Devils Lake, Fargo, Fergus Falls, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Thief River Falls, Valley City and many more communities. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers round-the-clock availability via phone, prompt response times and same-day admissions, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Contact us anytime at 800-237-4629 or hrrv.org.