Phylis was in good spirits. Our New Years call to her was so much fun, it was nice to make her laugh. We met Phyl in church in Magog years ago and have kept in touch with her all the years since we moved back to Ontario. On first meeting her, I was quite frightened. She was one of those formitable old church ladies whose lips were made for pursing, not smiling. She could quote scripture with the best of them, though never did.
We met in odd circumstances. Every now and then the United Church women would take the service. The Sunday that Phyl and I became friends was one of those Sundays. In the service each of four women got up and spoke as if they were a character from the Bible. Phyl was last. Picture a tiny, perfect 80 year old woman beginning by saying, "I am not a prostitute ..." I didn't hear much of the rest of the sermon. I sat in shock both at the fact that Phyl knew what a prostitute was and at the fact that she said the word.
I was helping out with coffee that Sunday and when Phyl came down the stairs to the kitchen I saw her and called out to her, "I was so disappointed to hear you weren't a prostitute, I had my money out and ready." She glanced at me smiling and saying, "I hope you can pay in American dollars." And after a gasp of shock, everyone laughed. That was the first thing I'd ever said to Phyl, but it was be beginning of a conversation that has yet to end.
We've been together as friends through the death of her husband and through my hospitalization in Quebec. We've weathered storms as friends and whenever I need to know the source of a scripture, I just give Phyl a call. While still in Quebec we started a monthly pizza club where a few of us got together to laugh and eat pizza. We always picked Phyl up and caught up with her. Leaving Quebec was made more difficult because we knew we'd be leaving a bit of our heart behind.
And it has been hard. We felt helpless when Phyl fell and broke her hip a few months back and was hospitalized, first in Sherbrooke, then in Magog, then moved to a 'rehab home'. It looked like she wouldn't ever get back home. During that time her voice was sad and her memory started to go. But we called anyways. Through the determination that only the elderly seem to have these days, she made it back home. She can't leave her house, there are too many stairs. But she came home. Some people shop for her, others get her mail. But she's home.
It's different talking to Phyl at home than it was a the hospital or rehap center. She seems so much more happy. So content. She never complained about her long hospital stays or her time at rehab. She is thankful for the help she got. But she's glad to be home.
Phyl has a disability now. She can't walk far. She can't do stairs. But what she can do - is live at home. Be her own woman in her own place. There are a thousand decisions she can make every day in her own home - decisions that would be taken from her in hospital care. She doesn't sound captive, though she is house bound. She sounds free. Powerful. Happy.
Those of us who work in care must remember always what we do when we go to work. We make community possible. We make home a reality. We allow people to use the power they have. We make, if we do it right, happy possible.
There is no higher calling.