The Story of My Conversion
Part IV: Hitting Bottom
His name was Paul Ohm and he was the dearest, sweetest, cutest little man in the nursing home where I worked. Granted, I was fond of all the residents. Their smiles, their stories, their wrinkles…their lonely lives and their unspoken needs…all of these things broke my heart at the same time they enlarged it.
I loved my job.
As a 17-year-old working in the kitchen that long-ago summer, I did not have to do the hard and often messy work of the nurses’ aides—the lifting, the lowering, the changing of soiled linens. Instead, I was given charge of the “lunch cart”—a wobbly metal trolley that I would stock with coffee, fruit and a variety of juices. I made and delivered sandwiches to order, and daily prepared a dozen Ensure shakes for those residents who needed extra nutrition.
Paul Ohm was one such man.
He was slim, slight and wheelchair-bound, and from the moment I saw him, my heart was his. First of all, he was cute like a little turtle, with thinning gray hair and wire rim glasses and a shy, wavering smile that became the highlight of my day. He would be sitting quietly in his wheelchair in the hallway—a common activity for nursing home residents—with one leg crossed neatly over the other (I loved his Oxfords) and his long, slim fingers clasped meditatively under his chin.
He came to know me, I think, and recognized me (despite my hairnet) as the young gal from the kitchen who came with his shake each afternoon.
I was not required to feed Paul his shake—there were nursing aides to do this—but I wanted to because he was so sweet. Holding the straw carefully up to his lips, I would chat away about the day as he quietly sipped and listened.
He was hard of hearing, my Paul, and I loved that he was hard of hearing because of the way he would cock his head and murmur, “Pah-don?” I loved this more than anything. His “pah-don?” was who Paul was, really—an elderly man who was impeccably polite, a lonely aging soul who needed care.
One day near the end of the summer, I was leaving the kitchen with my cart when my boss stopped me. Clipboard in hand, she went over a few of the dietary changes among the residents and handed me a list of the adjustments.
Then, as I was wheeling my cart away, she called out, “Oh and Margaret? Paul Ohm died.”
And he had.
I knew this because he wasn’t in the hallway outside his room any longer. His room was empty, save for a small, brown suitcase packed and ready on his bed. On the floor below that were his Oxfords.
At that point, I left my cart and fled to the bathroom. I made it through the day but only barely.
I am thinking of Paul as I resume the story of my conversion. I am thinking of him as I review my “past life” and all its sinful, selfish, disordered acts. The months and years leading up to my general confession were ugly. Truly, you have no idea.
I have a theory, though.
I think perhaps it was my love for Paul Ohm (and for all of the residents of that nursing home, really) that ultimately saved me from my sin. God could have taken me from this world at my worst…drunk, stoned, in a state of mortal sin…but He didn’t.
since love covers a multitude of sin. (1 Peter 4:8)
…to be continued.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,