This article was submitted anonymously on behalf of the residents and staff of St Augustine’s Nursing Home in Ballina.
Please stop awhile and listen to my story. You know me, you have seen me. I fade into the background I suppose. You may have visited me. Maybe a parent, sibling, friend or neighbour of yours has come to live within my walls and called me home.
For whatever reason, they can no longer live at home and need a little extra TLC to get through their day. Maybe a stroke came out of the blue and suddenly they need someone to help them walk, talk, get dressed or eat. Maybe they had a fall and quite simply need to know they are not alone as age advances. Perhaps loneliness marched unexpectedly into their life and the nights alone at home became too much to bear.
Let me tell you, here you are never alone. You are part of the St Augustine’s family, and let me tell you, you are loved.
St Augustine’s is a place you will find yourself only when life plays you a trump card, and only then, when you despair that things will never be the same, you will find yourself settling into Ballina’s micro-community. A community that thrives as you drive by every day getting frustrated at bad drivers at our junction. We see you, we exist, we laugh, and we wonder where on earth you are all going in such a hurry.
For so long these walls have nurtured friendship, laughter, songs, and fun. They hold you up and keep people connected despite all the changes that have happened in your life.
As you may know, an intruder recently entered our walls. An intruder so silent and deadly came and imploded within our sacred space.
My staff had worked so tirelessly to keep it out but in it came, caring not for creed nor race and ripped our family apart. It took some of our most cherished residents but it did not take our spirit. I have seen girls whisper gentle prayers into the ears of those on their final journey, whose families could not be by their sides, gloved hands endlessly caressing those who were passing on to the next world, letting them know they were never alone, they had done their job and God was waiting for them with open arms, ready to heal all their pain and suffering.
I have seen my staff cry together. I have seen their tears and worries for their own colleagues and families who in turn have had to fight this vicious intruder, their guilt immense that they had brought it home and put their own loved ones at risk.
I have seen friendship flourish in the darkest days. Lately, I can hear laughter within these walls again. I feel the pain of my staff and those who call me home, but I also feel their strength, resilience and determination to keep going and build a new normal. No day will pass without some fun, some prayers and inevitably tears and sorrow for those we have lost.
My walls continue to be warm and nurturing, I envelop those who work and dwell here in my safe embrace. I welcome you to stop by. Come to a window, give a wave or a smile, inside you will find a (perhaps weary) warrior whose joy at seeing you, even a stranger, will surely be heartfelt.
We are here. We soldier on together. If ever you need us we will be here, ready to help you navigate through murky waters. You will feel the warmth of my community to help you play whatever card has been dealt to you.
You will never be alone. We are in this together.