Lynn Van Atta Continued: “Wherever One or Two are Gathered”
Bonnie Chollet & Sheila Reed
Our Lynn has continued her journey in a nursing facility for the past two years. She has now lost most physical abilities and is unable to walk or to feed herself. Our group continues to visit, with at least one person visiting daily, often to feed her lunch, read to her and just talk or be with her.
It has been a terribly sad deterioration, and her ability to communicate has changed in the last few weeks. Lynn has many friends and our STC group remains at about 20. We have changed our five member women’s group of 30 years from visiting in each other’s homes to meeting at her nursing facility every other week. She can no longer attend church and so her Friend’s group comes to her once a month. Lynn is frightened by the changes happening to her, and since her memory is declining as well, she cannot remember our daily visits, but we continue to go since when we are with her, she calms down and feels safer.
The facility staff have often commented on her loving group. Her roommate has become an unofficial part of the group and we all appreciate her caring, too. I call her Lynn’s Guardian Angel. Although the group has changed over the years, with some ageing and some passing away and some with dwindling interest, and even adding a few over the years, we continue to be grateful for being part of this special shared love. We all treasure the spirit of Lynn and the love that she has sent out over the years which joins us all.
This is a difficult time for the STC group, as well, in dealing with our own feelings of loss and sorrow for our friend, but we have called on one another to support each other and share that caring as well.
The following story by one of our group is a poignant testament to the power of Share The Care.
Wherever One or Two are Gathered
by Sheila Reed
For the past several years, I have spent most of my Sunday mornings at the Church of Lynn. Its sanctuary is half of a double room at the Founders Pavilion nursing facility in Corning. Its patron saint is Lynn Van Atta, my friend for over thirty years, although she would snort at any notion of saintliness.
Lynn suffers from a degenerative brain disorder that has gradually stolen her vision, her mobility, and her sense of time and space. She is tethered to the world by the ministrations of her caregivers and the daily visits of family and friends. Each of us has staked ourselves to a portion of Lynn’s week, when we arrive to share food and conversation, to read words of wisdom and comfort, to laugh over old stories.
My time is Sunday morning. I wend my way through the wheelchairs clustered by the third floor nurses’ station and arrive at room 306. Whether she is in bed or in the geriatric chair that holds her head and body steady, Lynn’s face beams at the sound of my greeting. Her eyes are often lidded or fully closed; Lynn sees without them. Her world is lit from within by little joys and epiphanies: the tart taste of apple on her tongue, a snatch of song from the past, the memory of a day on the beach with her beloved granddaughters.
This is my worship. To be in the presence of a soul growing ever closer to the light, whose illness has robbed her body of almost everything it can, save life itself, and acceptance, and grace in the face of terrible loss. A determination to live out her days with gratefulness for the things that remain.
It is in this presence that I approach my own best self. I am patient with Lynn’s frequent confusions, tender with my words. I battle with her the fearful images that her ravaged brain generates. We make our way through the verses of “Amazing Grace.” I sing her the song she loves by Libby Roderick:
How could anyone ever tell you/ You were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you/ You were less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle?
These are our Sunday hymns. I place slices of clementine and bits of banana bread between Lynn’s lips slip some into my own mouth. This is our communion.
Jesus said, ‘Wherever one or two are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”
Throughout my life I have experienced the presence of God in a variety of places, both humble and grand. Right now my church is half of a double room on the third floor of Founders Pavilion in Corning, New York.