Have you ever had a resident speak directly to your soul? Have you been blessed to feel their soft touch or gentle hug and just knew that God placed them right in your path to speak through them, just for you? I have.
When I visit communities, I am invited to a resident meeting with residents and their families. At times these meetings can be daunting, but I have realized that these experiences are "audibles," moments in time calling each of us to stop and think from a different perspective. I am a very imperfect leader, and I know we have areas to improve. So, I am ready for those uncomfortable conversations regarding our food, housekeeping and almost always, the big question, "Can we have more staff?"
Only this time, I met Charlotte Porter. As we all milled into the packed resident meeting, Charlotte made it a point to let me know she needed to meet with me afterward on something specific. My mind immediately went to something negative, and as Mommy always said, "The only way to take it is on the chin, so face it head on!"
When I completed the resident meeting, I pulled my shoulders back and walked straight up to Mrs. Porter. This radiantly beautiful lady was ready to talk.
"Esmerelda, thank you for coming to see me," Charlotte exclaimed, her beautiful deep blue eyes peering straight at me. "I received a letter from you, one where your daddy was not well. I saved it, Esmerelda. I saved it for several months. My husband and I have been praying. He had a stroke, so he doesn't speak, but we talked about you and we started praying over your letter. But then coffee spilled on your letter. I still prayed for your daddy and your mommy. Are they doing OK? That's all I wanted to know."
I stood in a crowded room, but suddenly it felt as though no one else mattered except for Charlotte. She was asking a question I did not want to answer, an answer most people knew but no one had the courage to ask.
"Charlotte," I said, "thank you for praying. Daddy and Mommy died, and so did my baby brother."
The words were difficult to say, but as they came, Charlotte started to cry. And suddenly, amidst a crowded room during COVID-19, Charlotte Porter, with her mask on, hugged me, sobbing and sharing my pain.
I was reminded at that very moment why I have always loved senior living. For me, it has and will always be about the people. The ones who see right through you and just know the most beautiful words to inspire. It is the cantankerous old man who sits at breakfast, demanding crisp bacon. The smell of Aqua Velva and the cacophony of banter that may not be acceptable but is still so very funny. And when you have no family, working in senior living gives you the built-in family that will never leave you. Employees and colleagues may pivot in their loyalty, but the love of family in senior living lasts forever.
Breathe it in, and know we are the blessed ones!