How a Nursing Home Liability Brought Sunshine to Retirement


That’s the word you could use to describe the eighty plus woman living in the aging facility. There would have to be a few more adjectives added to really do her justice. How about youthful? Fun loving? Adorable? Life of the party? Saintly? Yes, those and more could have accurately described Fay Sunnenshine.

But let’s start from the beginning.

When Fay’s children accompanied her for a preliminary visit to the aging services facility, the admission staff was doubtful. Here was a smiling woman that clearly presented a fall risk. The claim control department had a hard time allowing her residency.

It was equally as hard not allowing her resident status in the nursing home, however.

“You’ve got to get to know me,” said Fay, as the top brass voiced their opposition. “See my smile? I’ll get the entire population of Green Meadows Aging Center to smile the same way!”

You needed an uncommonly hard heart to debate that argument. So the professionals at Green Meadows conferred with their insurance agency who did their homework exceedingly well.

“Although Mrs. Sunnenshine does indeed pose more of a tendency as a fall claim risk, you’ve got good coverage,” the agent said most assuredly. “You’re connected with one of the top insurance providers nationwide. Use their guidance for fall prevention and claim management and you should be fine with this new resident.”

Fay was admitted and sure enough, the atmosphere at Green Meadows began to shift from the doldrums to a highly uplifted atmosphere! Fay’s jolly laughter filled the halls and dining room as she mesmerized her growing audience of wheelchair occupants and walker-walkers.

One notable story put even the staff members in stitches, and it illustrated the real stuff Fay was made of. Hailing from inner-city New York, Fay moved to a small NJ town in her middle years. Accustomed to standing up for her rights, as well as those of any innocent bystander who happened to be within her range and under attack by the local hoodlums, it seemed that nobody ever was able to fully take advantage of her. As an unsavory type of hooligan thought he could have an easy time with little Miss Fay, she proved him decisively wrong.

The would-be robber approached Faye and menacingly demanded the full contents of her purse. Faye reached inside, took out only one single five dollar bill out and threw it in disgust by the curb of the sidewalk. “Here you, wretched person!” she proclaimed. And with pocketbook in one hand, and head held high, she marched indignantly down the street!

Fay had little formal educational background. With her move to the small town in NJ, she reveled in the community life and in the babies she watched as their moms went to work.

With the passage of time, Fay found it difficult to keep up the rigors of babysitting. That didn’t keep those growing babies from being with her! Weekend afternoons, her living room would be filled with children – warming in Fay’s radiance and treating on Fay’s sweets… It did appear as if she was a beloved grandma to at least half of the town!

The truism that nothing stays the same, poked its painful head in Fay’s fanciful tales of her life. Fay related that as her physical abilities weakened, she had decided it was time to move in to the nursing home. She acknowledged how difficult it had become to keep house. Nevertheless, to her, it was a thrill to be among others. Here, at the nursing home, she could amass more friends…

“I love it here.” Fay would tell her fellow residents and her many, many visitors with the broadest, sweetest of smiles. “I have my food. It’s really quite delicious, you know. I have loads of friends. I love bingo and the social life. And most of all, I have my girls who come to see me..”

Everyone loved Fay – the lonely ones who never had visitors, the sick ones who had her on a mission to get them whatever they needed or to call over an orderly to help and the staff members who took pleasure in her remarkable happy nature and gratefulness for whatever they provided. To everyone at the nursing home, it felt like they had been presented with a rare gift in the form of sweet Fay.

One day in September just after a joyous moment in bingo when all were the winners due to Fay’s contagious brightness, Fay fell to the ground. The orderly on call rushed to her side. It was too late to do anything. Fay’s soul had been taken instantly and without warning.

That day of her passing there was little to distinguish between the residents and the staff. All mourned the one who had brought the sunshine inside the nursing home.

As the funeral car inched forward the throngs of friends, residents and nursing staff members who had been privileged to witness Fay’s smiles, laughter, kindness, wisdom and simple faith trailed behind.

What distinguished personality had passed away that such a following should show? A few unfamiliar onlookers wondered. Unfortunately for them, the saint who had passed on could not be met in this world any longer. Fay, the wonderful woman who had warmed so many with her goodness, was now warming those who knew her with her memories.