Aging / Alzheimer's / Kindness & Compassion

Nina’s roommate

After I visited my mom in the Alzheimer’s unit, I would often spot my friend Nina, sitting as always in her wheelchair near the nursing home’s ice cream parlor. Nina was outgoing and always greeted me by bellowing “Hello, Babe!” She was so sweet.

“What’s you been doing today, Nina,” I asked her one day.

“Playing bingo. I won 50 cents.”

“Great, how do you plan to spend it?”

“Right here,” she said, pointing to the ice cream parlor. “I’d like two big scoops please.” She relaxed a fist to reveal two shiny quarters.

“Your money’s no good with me,” I said, laughing.

I walked in to get Nina’s cone and told the counter person what I wanted and for whom. “Nina’s diabetic and can’t have two scoops,” she said. “But we can give her a small dish of strawberry.”

Nina was smiling as she took the treat from me, then turned serious, and her eyes glistened with tears.

“What’s wrong, Nina?” I asked.

“I lost my roommate today.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” I said, touching her arm in a reassuring way.

“I held her hand when she died,” Nina said, choking back the tears. “She was 97.”

I rose to leave, shaking Nina’s hand in a goodbye, but she tightened her hold, and said:

“Come back and see me.”

“Yes, I will. I’ll stop by especially to see you.”

In the months ahead, our friendship deepened. We talked about many things, sometimes-silly things, but never about her roommate and the night she died. Then one day, as I was passing her usual spot at the ice cream parlor, I noticed Nina was missing. That’s funny, I thought, she’s here every day. I walked down the hall and asked a nurse about her whereabouts.

“Sorry,” she said, “Nina passed away in the middle of the night.”

I choked back tears, and wondered:

Who held her hand when she died?

–By Ron Cooper

4 thoughts on “Nina’s roommate

    • Yes, Jo, I believe you are right! Nina must have had a special guardian angel waiting in the wings to serve as a comforting presence in the final moment of her life. Thank you for posting!

  1. Crying, so poignant. I have volunteered in nursing homes one day a week to visit and take communion. I know how deep a friendship shared with an elder can be.

    I am so glad you shared this with potentially those that have not read your wonderful book about your mother and Alzheimer’s .

    Genuinely enjoyed reading Fran ‘s Song Highly recommend to all that are interested in compassion, understanding and love of one ‘s parent.

    You are welcome to use this informal review for anyway you feel it may be helpful.

    My best to you. Love , Cuz Jan

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hi Jan,

      Thanks so very much for commenting! I will never forget Nina, who looms large in my memory. So glad you are able to be of service to these dear elderly residents. I know it means so much for them to see you bringing communion. I also felt the appreciation from Nina in just stopping by for a moment or two and sharing a funny story, or a dish of ice cream. The best in life resides in these simple, beautiful encounters! Thanks, too, for your heartfelt words about “Fran’s Song!” I am humbled.

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