Sarah’s Choice

By Mina Friedler

     We often assume that the residents in nursing homes wait for death, but I have found that they can give new life and understanding to those who visit them. 

     Sarah was in a wheelchair, smiling beguilingly at me.  Her soft gray hair was carefully styled and her eyes twinkled with anticipation and intelligent curiosity.

“When I had a stroke,” she said, “my friend asked me why I was still smiling, why I didn’t take it seriously.  I said that I still could move my right hand and the sun was still shining.  Why should I be serious?”

Should I frown today

in misery

because I am shackled outside

the legs I cannot


and the arm I cannot


or should I smile

because I can

feed the birds

and the sun on my skin

is delectable today,

beckoning for me to come outside

and breath the bounteous air.

She chose to smile,

curtailing all doubts

that life flourished

in a wheelchair

at ninety-one.

When she smiled,

her joy trickled down

so that the languid man

in the wheelchair next to her


clapping his hands to the music,

and the woman’s tears across the aisle

dried up until she sang,

and I began to understand

the meaning of Sarah’s choice.

Mina Friedler is a freelance writer and poet from Los Angeles, California.  This is her third contribution to Jewish Action.

This article was featured in the Fall 1995 issue of Jewish Action.