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LITTLE WHITE BOX





(Story titled "THE LITTLE WHITE BOX" in "Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul")



"What is it that Mrs. Mathers keeps talking on about?" I asked the nurse at the front desk of the nursing home where I had been employed for about a week.

"I don't know. I just do not know. She has been here for two weeks. The family knows that she will not live for another month. Therefore, they chose to place her in a nursing home facility. She goes on constantly about some damn little white, plastic box," the nurse replied.

"Something about a box?" I questioned.

"Just get her dressed for bed and forget about her ramblings," she instructed.

"Yes ma'am," I said and walked away from the nursing station.

Every day when I came to work, Mrs. Mathers asked about the little white box. She lied in her bed all day with her hands partially covering her face. Each time I moved her hands away from her face to wash them, I could see tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Before I die, my little white box, please," she’d say.

"Mrs. Mathers, I don't know what you mean," I told her.

Every day it was the same routine. No matter what I said to her, I just could not understand what it was she was taking about.

Several times over the next week, the doctor was called to attend to Mrs. Mathers. Each time, I stood outside her room to see if the doctor would pull her through and each time the doctor left, I would go wipe her forehead to make sure she was comfortable.

"My house. My little white box. Please," she said over and over again.

At 3:30 p.m. as I was about to get off work, I walked up to the desk and pulled out Mrs. Mathers’ chart.

"1333 Whitmark" was her last known address. I drove the five miles or so, until I located the address written down on my pad. I arrived to see there was an estate sale going on. There were cars and people everywhere.

"You’re going to have to get a number if you are going to bid," said one of the men as I walked up.

"I'm not going to bid."

I walked around the house for about 10 minutes looking at everything that was tagged for sale. As I entered the dining room, I saw a gentleman wrapping various items and stuffing them into cardboard boxes. Sitting on the edge of the table was a little white, plastic box.

”Excuse me. By any chance did you buy this little white box?" I asked.

"I bought everything in this room," he stated.

"Could I look inside this little white box?"

"Sure. There's nothing in there of any value," he replied.

I slowly opened the box and peeked inside.

"OH MY GOD!" I thought.

"Can I have this box?" I asked.

"Not worth nothing to me," he answered.

I ran out of the house as fast as I could, headed back to the nursing home and rushed into Mrs. Mathers’ room.

"Mrs. Mathers, it's me Roger. Look what I’ve got," I said excitedly.

She opened her eyes slowly and began to shake as she reached out and took the little white box from my hand.

"Water," she said.

I walked over to the sink, got her a cup of water, sat it down on the dinner tray and stood there watching.

“Thank you, dear.”

"You're very welcome," I told her as I patted her on the hand.

I wanted her to know I understood that she was a fine woman and a private person. I nodded as I left her room with my most courteous manners.

When I returned to work the next day, I learned that Mrs. Mathers had passed away during the night. Over all my years working in nursing homes, though there were many deaths, I only attended two funerals, one being that of Mrs. Mathers.

I stood by the casket for more than an hour as many people filed past. I could not count the times I heard her friends say, “Jane looks at least 20 years younger with her dentures in.”



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