When I Met Jesus, His Name Was Doris
This post was originally published on Aleteia. It has been shared with permission.
Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, often jokes that God is always tweeting His wisdom at us through his favorite messengers, the elderly. I encountered this truth first hand while working with the Little Sisters of the Poor in one of their nursing homes. At the time, I was discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and the residents were a constant source of love and encouragement. Their prayers and bits of wisdom are among the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, but one resident in particular gave me something beyond wisdom. She gave me an encounter with Christ.
This resident, we’ll call her Doris, was about 80 years old and was suffering from severe dementia. She had lived with the Little Sisters for a number of years and was the most elegant resident in the building. Often sporting the finest attire and accessories, Doris always looked like she was headed to a Broadway show. Whenever she departed from her room she made sure her hair and makeup were suitable for a woman of her sensibilities. Whether she was headed to dinner or to Mass, Doris always looked her best. However, despite her youthful exterior, Doris’ health was failing. She never let go of her sense of fashion, but her mind had left her many years before.
As often happens with people in her condition, Doris continuously repeated the same stock phrases. Confined to her wheelchair, she would roll out into the hall and begin reciting her lines to whomever would listen. Over and over again she repeated “Stay with me” to anyone who was with her. When her companion would have to leave despite Doris’ pleading, she would always say, “I love you.”