Elegant Irene


“I don’t quite fancy my tea on the floor.”

I panicked!

She’s right! What am I doing?

My hands were full as I tried to balance the teapot, china cups and saucers, creamer and cookies in the wooden tray I’d carried in for our tea party.

My intentions were good.  I’d been wanting  to visit my gentleman friend’s mother in the nursing home she stayed in.  I asked him if I could visit her while he was gone on a week’s mission trip and remembered he mentioned she liked a good cup of tea.

A ‘tea party’ seemed like the perfect plan for a visit!

Seven years ago I found myself lying in a hospital bed with a broken femur.  One of those ‘pull the rug out from under you’ moments in life.  I certainly had not planned on falling on ice that day.

After a week’s stay, I was transferred to the rehabilitation unit of a nursing home.  In my fifties, I was the youngest resident.  Most patients were in their 80’s and 90’s.  I didn’t like what I saw or experienced.  And this place had a good reputation.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel for me.  After a period of time I would be going home.  Most of the folks I was with wouldn’t be.  They would be transferred over to the other side.  Many had a regular stream of visitors.  Others had not a one.

I wanted to make sure at some point after I left I found the opportunity to visit someone or several others to make a difference in their lives because I’d seen first hand that it was a hidden place of no return for so many people.  Men and women whom at one time in their lives flourished.  Now so many were forgotten.

My special friend was one of the luckier ones, being surrounded by family.  And I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to spend some time with her.

The first time I visited the nursing home I found my way to the elevator and rode to the second floor with an older man.  He clutched a paper coffee cup in his hand.  I’m not sure why, but the thought occurred to me this might be my friend’s brother.

Interesting.  I was right.  He walked right into the room I was headed to.  I hesitated, feeling very timid.  I stood outside in the hall and watched as he walked into the room hearing him greet his mother.

No,  I’m not leaving.  This is what I want to do.  It’s important.

I introduced myself.  He was very welcoming, and after a short visit I determined to come back in a few days with a tea party for this special lady.  It would be lovely!

Elegant Irene.

Dressed in a bright pink knit blouse, black sweater and black and white geometric-patterned slacks, she faced the hallway sitting in her wheelchair.

“My name is Deborah.”

“I am your son’s friend from church.”

She received my hand gently in the handshake I offered her and gifted me with her beautiful smile.

I managed to get the teacups on her bed table.  Arranged the shortbread cookies on napkins, and poured us some tea in floral china cups.  I put just a little creamer in hers.  I’d hoped she wouldn’t be too troubled I set the cups on the floor for a moment.  Her comment did tickle my funny bone and is still a sweet little memory!

“I enjoy the aroma of tea.”

She brought the cup close to her mouth, lingering in its delightful smell before tasting.

“What?  No sugar?”

Oh dear!  Tea party fail number 2.  This novice didn’t know the ins and outs of having tea with Mrs. Bachman!

I panicked again.

“Of course!  I will find us some sugar!  I’ll be right back!”

I hurried to the dining area and found some packets then hustled back to her room to rescue her drinking experience.

“That’s better.”  She smiled in approval.

We shared simple conversation.  I was quite mesmerized with her lovely English accent.  And so thankful I’d had the privilege of sharing this afternoon visit with this special lady.

I watched as her son faithfully drove 30 miles nightly after work to be by her side.  Ages 62 and 92.  A boy and his mother.   Every single night.  Without fail.  The only time he missed were the few days out of town visiting family or for a week serving with his church on a mission trip.

You make time for whom or what you value.  

Without a doubt he valued this sweet lady.  

His mother.

Elegant Irene.

A woman that lived her life with passion and purpose.  She was a committed wife and devoted mother.  Prominent contributor to her community through the arts.  For years she had a unique career of commercial artist in the fashion industry.  She continued her passion for the arts through painting.

She’d lived a lifetime of love, family, purpose and making a difference in the lives of those closest to her.  Now in her latter years of life, dementia crept into her mind unforgivingly.

I knew sweet Irene for just a few weeks.  But really never knew her.

I wish I could tell her how much those visits blessed my life.  Just sipping tea with her and watching how much joy it brought to her.  When she allowed me to put lotion on her back or drape her sweater over her shoulders if she felt cold, how much joy it brought to my heart to just be able to help her.

I lost my own mother to colon cancer at age 52.  Many precious years to spend with my mother were relentlessly stolen from me.  I’d planned to grow old with her.  That’s just the way it should have been.

Elegant Irene.

I knew you for just a short time.  My plan was to make a difference in your life but it turned out YOU made a difference in mine.  I am certainly blessed with the time you allowed me to have with you.  As my friend continues to share about you I look forward to getting to know you even better.

And I will remember my favorite part of our visits as you referred to me as ‘Love’, and smiled at me telling me sweetly, “Come again.”


  1. Beautiful, Deb. Did she pass away? I am sorry if she did. I hope that life is treating you well. I was thinking of you just the other day. XOXO


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