From nursing home to a home filled with love

Valerie Paradis

Valerie Paradis 1942 –

In 1972, Valerie had just graduated from divinity school when she visited Evergreen, a Bruderhof in Connecticut, for a weekend. She wasn’t at all impressed at first, “but something – I don’t know what – something touched my heart.” She soon returned and decided to stay.

I was in the community for about twenty years. Then I began having psychiatric problems, and in 1993 I checked into a hospital. I was paranoid, and angry – my illness made me lose trust in the people I knew and in the community. There was misunderstanding and confusion on both sides. I told them I didn’t want anything more to do with them.

I was away for the next twenty-five years, and spent about twenty of those in psychiatric care. I lived like a hermit. I tried to commit suicide multiple times. Then, I began falling and ended up in a nursing home.

Then one day, someone came to the door and said, “Are you Valerie?” It was a couple from the Bruderhof who I used to know. For years I had reacted very negatively to any contact, but this time I didn’t. I don’t know why. They told me people had been looking for me – praying for me. I said, “No way!”

The next day, Verena, an old friend, came in to see me. “Why would anybody want me around?” I asked her. “I made such a mess out of things.” She said, “The past is the past. It’s forgiven and forgotten.” I felt like a light came on in my life.
In early 2018, Valerie returned. Today, she spends several hours a day working in the community’s woodshop in Maple Ridge, folds laundry, and reaches out to others, like Heidi, a forty-five-year-old with cerebral palsy whom she invites once a week for story time. She says:

I could still be in that nursing home. I actually thought I’d die there. But here I’m surrounded by so much love. And my source of joy is giving back that love.

In the community laundry, Anna-Mengia folds clean clothes for a family. Bring your laundry in the morning, pick it up clean and folded in the evening.
In our former way of thinking, we would talk of “give and take.” But here right now was a life of “give and give.” And that which we give will never run out. For we all know that the more love we give, the more will be given to us. It doesn’t matter that I am old. It wouldn’t matter if I were bursting with youth. What does matter is the precious love in which we live and have our whole existence.
Johnny Robinson, agronomist and Bruderhof member

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