Empty Windowsills

In December 2019, we gathered at her nursing home for her 97th birthday party. No one could’ve known it at the time, but it was the last time most of us would see my grandmother awake.

I paused in her doorway. She was waiting just inside her room, hands folded in her lap, pretty in pink, cheeks flushed and brown eyes clear. Someone had gently and carefully dressed her, brushed her hair, painted her nails, helped her sit in her wheelchair.

“How does it feel to be 97?” I asked, because everyone loves that question on their birthday. Her hands flew to her cheeks. ”Oh mercy!” she said, fingers disbelieving wrinkles felt, “Am I really?”

As we wheeled her toward the party room, once more I paused in her doorway. The windowsill was overflowing with flowers, balloons, plants, stuffed animals, and happy trinkets. Homemade cards lined her shelf. Someone had taken the time to neatly arrange them, facing them toward her bed so she could see.

Suddenly I was back in her kitchen from my childhood: something always baking but never ready yet, warm and bright, white with cheerful cherry wallpaper. She’s standing at the sink washing dishes and watching the hummingbirds in her feeders, and I run in to hug her from behind.

Her kitchen window overflowed with treasures: she saved every little note we wrote her, every rose we brought in that “fell” from her bushes, every pinecone and acorn discovery.

In just a few short months, the “someones” that lovingly, tenderly dressed her and decorated her windowsill for her last birthday here on Earth would lovingly, tenderly push her bed up against the same window so her family could say goodbye to her from outside.

Those same someones would drive to her graveside service and mingle weeping with rejoicing right beside her family.

There are not enough words to express the kind of gratitude my family and so many of us feel for our healthcare heroes — the someones that show up day after day to pour themselves out, to keep watch when we can’t, and to love our friends and family like their own. With care and kindness, they adorn the windowsills with beautiful reminders of love, and they empty them when it’s time.

Even though words may not feel like enough, let’s say them anyway.  You can help us in a tangible way show appreciation for the immeasurable sacrifices our healthcare heroes make each day. Visit GFC’s Help for Heroes webpage to find out more.

Kelly Holland
Hospitality Coordinator