Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feeding others is the same as feeding Jesus!

We all have lives full of experiences, mixed with incidents of joy, sadness, peace, unrest, times of good health, times of illness, great accomplishments, let downs and defeats, dreams realized, dreams shattered, and times of periods of unexpected experiences and surprises! There are times we have the opportunity to visit someone who is ill, needs cared for, or needs some encouragement. It's easy to get so busy that we forget about the forgotten, the widows, and the elderly who have lived-out a full life, and their retirement is spent in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

In October of 2012, I was surprised to learn my employer would send me to work in Kingsport, Tennessee, at Eastman Chemical.
While driving there, my mind reflected back to an earlier time in my life, the summer of 1976, which is when our family went to Blountville, TN, on a sad visit where my aunt Shirley Livingston's memorial service was held. When I was young, my grandparents took my sister Sissie and me to visit our Uncle Jim & Aunt Shirley Livingston, and their sons, Tracey, Troy, and Russell. Those visits were full of fun times and wonderful great memories!
Well, on this October work visit, I took the opportunity to take some time and drive by Jim and Shirley's old house.
I also drove by Shirley's graveside in the Memorial Gardens, across from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, where Uncle Jim used to serve as an Air Traffic Controller. I spotted a air traffic control tower, and wondered if this was where he once help navigate jets in/out of the airport!

I learned from Uncle Jim's son, Troy Livingston, via Facebook, that Uncle Jim is currently residing at the nearby Greystone Health assisted living facility, which ironically, is across the pretty green hillside of the Memorial Gardens,where his wife Shirley is buried, and directly across from the Tri-Cities airport Uncle Jim worked at.

I took some time to visit with Uncle Jim Livingston, in hopes he might remember me. As I exited my car, I grabbed one of my harmonicas, thinking maybe I could play my uncle a hymn or two.
As I walked down the hall, I stopped-in at the office and met a young lady who was the assisted living manager. When I inquired about Jim Livingston, her eyes lit-up, and she said, "Oh, hes' such a sweet man, talks all the time, and a real blessing to us!" That was the Uncle Jim I recalled from years back!

As I made my way up to the second floor, I stopped by the nurse's station, and inquired of his health. They said he was fine, and would enjoy a visitor. Finding his room, I wasn't a little uneasy of his health, and not sure he would remember me. I hadn't seen him since 1976, which was 36 years ago!
As I entered his room, I noticed a 8 x 11" sheet of paper with his name hand written, "Jim's Room"! That was really neat, I might say!
Once I stepped inside the room, there he was, just sitting up in his bed eating his evening supper, around 6:00 p.m.

Uncle Jim didn't even look up to see who it was, but commenced to working on his food tray.
I sat down beside his bed on his walker bench, you know the kind with handles on each side, and a sitting bench in the middle, with wheels on it. I quickly said "Hello, Jim! How are you doing?" Still not looking up at me, to see who it was, I figured he supposed me to be just another health care worker.
I said, "Would you like me to help you cut-up your food for you?", and he replied "No, that would be alright." Well, I just figured that meant "If you want to, sure, go ahead". LOL
He had a egg salad sandwich and I noticed the bread was getting soggy, especially when he tried to pickup the wedged-shaped cut sandwich slices. I noticed he was fumbling with the sandwich, so I commenced to slicing his sandwich into smaller pieces for him.
I then took the fork and said to him, "Here, let me help you eat it.", to which I fed him some sandwich pieces with his fork. He took a few pieces, and chewed them up. I sorta felt like I was feeding one of my children again. Sentimental thoughts rushed through my mind, and God's Holy Spirit reminded me of the verses in the Bible, in Matthew 25:35-40, "for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink....‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?.... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
As I fed him, I began rehearsing his past family history, recalling the names of his first wife, Shirley Pickens Livingston, his last wife, Annette, and Jim and Shirley's boys, Tracey, Troy, and Russell. I told him he used to be a air traffic controller at McKellar Airfield, Jackson, TN, and that he lived out their not too far from the airfield. I told him he was an air traffic controller at the nearby Tri-Cities Regional Airport, just across the street from his assisted living facility. When I mentioned his father and mother-n-law, Herman & Nellie Pickens, of Jackson, TN, they didn't seem to ring a bell with him.
After running all those names by Uncle Jim, I asked him, "How do I know all this about your life?", which he replied, "I don't know, I'm not sure?" There wasn't much point in attempting to push the memory issue, so I just acted like it was OK to me to not remember. Apparently, he' was dealing with a long term memory loss, dementia/Alzheimer, and couldn't connect with the names I was listing him. I said, "Look up at me, Uncle Jim. Do you know who I am?, and he just shrugged his shoulders. I knew the I was a stranger who just came by to visit him, after being out of his life for so long. That was OK in my mind for visiting my Uncle Jim ended-up being for me, and not so much for his sake, even though I wanted it to be.

I did make another trip to Kingsport, TN at the end of 2013 but didn't have time to visit Uncle Jim. I felt he was well cared for just by watching his interaction with the nursing staff, which he & they joked together while I was there.

Update: August 12, 2014
Uncle James Wallace Livingston graduated to Heaven on Aug 4, 2014, 38 years on the same day his first wife, Shirley Pickens Livingston passed. He would later in 1977 re-marry another beautiful lady, Annette Denton Livingston, and add to the Livingston "Brady Bunch" with her kids Don Petty & Lori Petty Worley.

Family & friends visitation held Friday Aug 8, 2014, at Blountville Christian Church, 5-7 pm visitation, 7-8 pm Services. Graveside Saturday Aug 9, 11 am at Tricity Memorial Gardens (across from Tri-city Airport).

Uncle Jim's family really cherished & loved one another, as witnessed at Jim's funeral services and the online Facebook page created by his eldest son , Tracy Livingston. The Facebook page is

Blessings on the family!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your Blog. I was Jim's second wife Annette's Best friend for 25 years. I go to see Jim about every 2 months.He does seem to be doing ok in the nursing home facility. He does have Alzheimers, badly. He went into the home about 4 months before Annette Passed away..The Family elected not to tell him of her death. No need causing him unnecessary pain.I will follow your Blog. Hope you accept my Friend request on Facebook. Blessings to you.