Love Story in a Nursing Home
It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving - Mother Theresa
We are a very small Sathya Sai Baba group in Ithaca, New York. In 1995, some Sai devotees were inspired to organize a monthly singing session for the residents at Lakeside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Over the many years we have been visiting the nursing home, we have become very close to the residents, like family.
Namie Smith: a God-sent gift
One of the nursing home residents home had (and still has) a powerful impact on me personally, because of her deep faith in God and love for life, despite having endured many physical and emotional hardships. Namie Smith used to be a high school physics teacher in New Jersey. In her forties, she was suddenly afflicted by a tendency to fall down while she was teaching. Gradually it got more and more difficult, and medical tests were run.
Unfortunately, the diagnosis was Parkinson’s disease, a progressive illness that slowly ravaged her body – but not her mind, heart, or soul. Being a dedicated teacher, Namie kept teaching valiantly until she was physically unable. In 1995, she was moved to a nursing home for long-term care. The same year, one of her daughters died in a car accident and her husband left her.
On the surface, this would appear to be the worst thing that could happen to anyone, yet the divine play is always perfect. Through her interaction with our center members, Namie gained a deeper meaning and understanding of her seemingly tragic life, and through her stoic and courageous acceptance and incredible faith in God, miracles began to occur. Namie herself became a source of healing and a channel of divine love.
Namie, a channel of divine love and healing
For instance, in 1999, this author, who was a child of Holocaust survivors and suffered from severe depressions, began visiting Namie daily, and nothing else but this seemed to help ease my pain and suffering. These daily visits seemed to be the only cure for my malady and saved me during this dark time of my life.
When I walked into her room, Namie would be exhausted and suffering, with her head leaning on one side of the wheelchair and her back bent. Then we would start singing from the Sai Center hymn book. Her eyes would start dancing and divine energy would start to fill the room. As Namie became more uplifted in spirit, it seemed she overcame her bodily pain.
God is pure love, and Namie’s life reflected that love
One activity we did was to help Namie write and receive e-mails from friends. She would say a few words, and I would type them. However, in the last few years, as her disease progressed, she often was not able to talk too much, so we ended up with just one sentence. The beauty of it was, every sentence she uttered was always completely loving and focused on the other person. It reflected a kind of selfless divine love.
After visiting Namie, I always felt filled with wonderful divine energy, and my spirits were so uplifted as I left the room, whereas so often I had entered the room feeling depressed. Only God could have orchestrated such a healing situation for me and Namie. The focus of the healing friendship between us was life, beauty, gratitude, and continuous spiritual growth.
The Song, the Chapel, and the art exhibition
Namie was a talented and creative individual who loved music, and a few years ago she came up with the following song lyrics in a burst of divine energy. This song not only summarizes her individual life but the life of every human being. It is a song we all still sing today.
God in Thy mercy, You taught us to love,
So that we can share Thy love with everyone (X2)
God is in our heart; we shall never part
God is in our soul and He made us whole
God keeps us from harm; we are always in Thy arms
God is full of light, and He leads us through the night
God is very near, and He is very, very dear
God is love divine, and He is with us all the time - Namie Smith
Many years ago, the residents of the nursing home requested a chapel so they could worship together, but the question arose, which denomination should it reflect? Namie took an active part in the process, guiding the discussion to an understanding of the unity of faiths, through a picture she created and words she wrote on a poster for the new chapel.
A few years later, an art teacher taught Namie to paint in watercolors, and we experienced yet another miracle. Namie displayed an amazing talent for painting and created the most beautiful pictures, full of inner light. By that time, Namie’s Parkinson’s disease had progressed so severely that she had a hard time communicating verbally. But her pictures conveyed a rich inner world that captured her sensitivity and feeling for color.
In 2008, I helped with the opening of Namie’s art exhibition. Namie not only created her own poster for the exhibition but also sold a few pieces.
Listen to Namie’s song and view her art exhibition:
Webcasts for Namie
After 12 years of our friendship, on 1 August 2012, Namie was moved to another nursing home, in South Carolina, to be closer to her daughter, Jennifer, as she needed more intensive care. I felt this chapter of the book that God wrote, of “Namie and me,” had come to a close. I felt sadness but also knew that this was divine timing. We held a farewell party for Namie.
However, by God’s grace our sweet healing friendship continued, as I was inspired by divine guidance during my daily meditation to initiate webcasts for Namie of inspirational and uplifting readings, as well as her favorite hymns. The precious connection with Namie continued to be one of the most inspiring activities of my life; only God could have orchestrated and bestowed something so gracious on me. Producing these webcasts soon became the best part of my day.
One of the topics I shared with Namie was the book, Letters from J, by Berniece Mead. Almost everyone at our Sai center had read the book, and it had moved us deeply. Jay Mead is a Sai Baba devotee (Berniece Mead’s son) who has been in a coma since 1994, after a fall on his head. In spite of that, and maybe because of that, he has been able to help countless people as a channel of divine love.
Clearly, Namie has had a similar impact on people. She is a pure channel of divine love. Here is one of the webcasts that were sent, a reading from a “letter from J” that J’s family received after the book was published: (2)
A sample webcast for Namie:
A few days after sending Namie this webcast and while writing this article, on 26 August 2012, we learned that Namie had passed away peacefully in the nursing home in South Carolina. Namie had shared with me just a few months previously that she felt very strongly about the presence of Sathya Sai Baba. We, her friends, know in our hearts that she is with him now.
I have indeed been so personally blessed to have Namie in my life, to have experienced the sweetness of her uplifting and inspiring spirit. I have witnessed her struggles with Parkinson’s disease and understood how divine love can help us still live a full and loving life, despite bodily pain.
I feel that Namie’s role was to open my heart to love in an unselfish way, without needs or fears. And I feel that God – by whatever Name – the Resident of our hearts, was guiding the entire process.
This love story does not end here, as I have become more involved in other nursing homes, feeling an ever-expanding love, which I have been so divinely blessed to experience through this chapter of my life.
Namie’s daughter requested that we sing Namie’s song, “God in Thy mercy, You taught us to love,” at her memorial service, a moving tribute to her, and in her loving memory, a webcast was created to honor Namie’s journey and her divinely-inspired creativity and love.
We will miss you, Namie!
Sathya Sai Group of Ithaca, New York