Monday, January 5, 2009


Millie is a tiny, determined lady with a sharp little nose and bright brown eyes. She looks like a small mouse in her wheelchair, but her feet touch the floor and she spends her time walking the chair this way and that way around the room, skittering and scuttling like a crab. She looks for things she can take, like a bird collecting bright, shiny things for its nest. Millie reels in the tablecloths and the plastic flowers on the tables. She tries to pull blankets and pillows away from the other residents, and grab songbooks and purses that we set down. She is strong, her grip like a vise. I once tried to wrestle a book from her hands and was amazed by the strength and tenacity of one so thin and fragile-looking. But if you speak to her firmly, she will listen and often do as you ask.

As we were singing, I discovered that she was joining in, or at least mouthing what looked like the words to one of our songs. When we were making our good-bye rounds, I decided to try a test.

"Millie, would you like to sing with me?" I asked. She looked up at me, and I began, "And he walks with me...", and she joined in, word for word, note for note. We finished the chorus together, holding the final note. When we let it go, I thanked her and she took my hand. "That was good," she said, clearly and consciously, "That was good for both of us."

And it was.

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