Sunday Post 151: Visiting Lillian

I remember the day we got the call. It was her brother, Jay, who informed us. Lillian, our nanny for eleven years, had been found on the floor of her apartment – she’d had a massive stroke.

Deep down I was glad it was the year after we’d stopped her employment. Michelle was in kindergarten, and we no longer needed a full time sitter. How much more difficult it would have been had she just disappeared for good twelve hours after she’d left our house.

She kept our kids in our basement playroom – bringing them upstairs for their naps. She started when DJ was six weeks old. Her last day with us was right before Michelle turned five.

When the kids were with Lisa and me for a meal, their clothes were dotted with mashed up peas and spurts of carrots. Somehow with Lillian not a drop of food would they wear on their onesie. I don’t know how she did it.

She taught them their numbers, their colors, and, I believe, introduced them to soap opras. The Young and the Restless was her one hour to eat her own lunch and catch up on the lives of Jack Abbott and Katherine Chancellor. The kids were to nap at that time. And if they didn’t, well, too bad. They’d be subjected to the complexities of life in Genoa City.

One day, at age 4, DJ awoke from her nap and told Lillian that she had seen the hand of God. Said it appeared from behind her bed. That afternoon when I was driving her to her bus stop, Lillian shared the story with me. I brushed it off.

“Bruce,” this wise woman instructed, “God reveals himself in many ways. I think DJ has a special gift. Don’t assume it was her imagination.”

I hadn’t realized how faithful my kids’ second mother was until that day.

She’s in a nursing home now, unable to speak, basically immobile.
She used to talk about how she wanted to be cared for in her old age. “Bruce, will you bring the kids to see me when I’m in a nursing home?”

“Lillian, I promise. You’ll always be a part of our lives.”

The first year after her stroke, I made it a point to drop by on a fairly regular basis. But then Lisa got sick; life got busy. Her commitment to us for all of those years – off of my radar.

Last week I returned. I needed to see her. I wanted to hold her hand and show her our Christmas card – let her see how beautiful the girls she had helped raise were becoming.

It’s hard to communicate with Lillian – well in words. But maybe that’s not what she needs. How uncomfortable for me to be with another human being without a verbal exchange. There I go again – looking at life through my lens. Thinking about me.

There are so many who need a hand to hold. There are so many who need to feel the presence of another.

I can be at home with all three girls upstairs and my house feels full. I can’t see them but I don’t feel alone – I know that they are there.

Maybe that’s all she needs – the presence of someone who loves her – a moving mouth optional.

It’s a tough visit. It conjures up memories of what was – and sadness for what could have been. It’s so hard. And yet, it’s so very beautiful.

Leave a comment


  1. Michele Barrows

     /  January 5, 2014

    Well said!

  2. You write with such feeling… What an amazing nanny/sitter/second mother you had… I think sometimes just a presence is enough, to know you are not empty and alone.

  3. Very well put! Please keep visiting her- becoming like your children’s second mother means that your family also held a special place in her heart, probably similar to a second family. 🙂

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 5, 2014

      I think she did think of all of the kids she cared for as “hers”.

  4. Betsy Peters

     /  January 5, 2014

    I know Lillian was so pleased to see all of you. She was so good to those girls and loved them all!

  5. It sounds like she was such a blessing to your family, I’m so glad that now you can return the favor and visit with, and bless her, in return.

  6. caringsoul

     /  January 5, 2014

    Thanks for sharing. You are very right…list sad but very beautiful.

  7. You never know the impact of your presence many times… but given your story I have no doubt, she feels your presence. Beautiful for many reasons, for her part in your life, your family’s life, and now…. the love and memories you share.

    Love her, visit her, hold her hand…. you’ll both be greatly rewarded. Your story touched me, a tear rolled down my face… most of us have been there, visiting a dear friend or family member in the hospital and by no means fun, but we do it… It is greatly appreciated. We tend to judge by “is there a sign”. Many times… you just have to feel.

    Sounds like Ms. Lillian was such a joy and special lady in your lives. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This was beautiful and a sweet Call to Action for those of us with Lillians in our lives. Thanks for posting.

  9. Mark Lopez

     /  January 7, 2014

    These days, it seems like fewer people and promises in our lives remain sacred. Your post suggests otherwise. Thanks for sharing.


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