The Empty Wishing Well

This is a nursing home’s wishing well. Take a look at it. It’s full of dust; empty of water. It’s encrusted with circular stains, absent of the coins that were responsible for those scarred outlines. Also absent are the visitors who stood here, sat here, and hoped for a wish to come true.

This nursing home has its elderly residents but public access has been restricted for a year. Its well has been drained and forgotten, two words that are commonplace in elder-care facilities today.

As it stands, this wishing well provides no value. It’s one of many things that’s been shut down, cordoned off, and considered non-essential by the staff. Perhaps this empty well is proof management never believed that wishes could come true.

Why else dismantle the well and remove the coins?

The wishing well is located near the entrance of the facility, and is set the furthest distance from the elderly. It isn’t near any destination for them to pass. No one can sit by it. No one can rest here, gaze into the still water and see themselves. No one can gaze into the statue’s flowing water and, like a child, see the wonder of endless formations and hear the giggle of the splash. No resident can have their eyes fall to their softly folded hands, at peace with the sounds and sights this bricked edge used to serve.

Let’s talk about who tosses coins into a nursing home wishing well. This is not the well at Rockefeller Center, where young hands eagerly hurled silver to make wishes for themselves. The visitor’s hands at the home aren’t so young. Their wishes aren’t for personal gain. The coins are copper and of modest value. And no one steals the pennies from the old age place.

Think about who stood here and opened their purse for an offering. Was it done with a smile? Or with rapidly-blinking eyes. Was it done on a whim? Or with the weight of the world. What do you think of these moments?

No one walks by this well by accident, or on a relaxing stroll. The people who left their money were visiting loved ones who might not recognize them. The people who made their wishes had a little in their hands and a lot on their minds. Every coin that hit the water had its dream determined hours, days, and years before it struck bottom.

Hear the echoes of wishes. Please ease my mom’s pain. Please let dad enjoy his memories again. I wish we could get some financial relief and guidance to do the right things. Please God, forgive me.

An emptied elder-care wishing well is like a kind thought, that has been misplaced by anger. It’s a memory in the wings, waiting much too long for her recall. It’s one more method of expression, on top of the pleas and prayers, to get someone help– someone other than ourselves.

Removed money has left scars in the emptied elder-care wishing well.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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4 Responses to The Empty Wishing Well

  1. Cynthia says:

    I enjoyed this story. You really painted a picture of what it was like for this wishing well.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hi Cyn, thank you for reading. I was lucky to get the photo and have a moment to think about what I was seeing, since the lobby is supervised and families can’t linger, we’re just walked out after our visits. There is a lot to consider when we remember what these items were meant to be used for, and all the prior families gathered around it. -Ara.

  2. MerryMarilyn says:

    Hi Ara, I read the “Wishing Well”, which you have written so eloquently. Surely, I can feel many emotions expressed. For 10yrs+, I served as an Ombudsmen @ Providence Care/Mt. Carmel Nursing Home. This truly was a humbling experience for me. Having reached retirement age at that time, I could only empathize with them & make suggestions to increase their comfort levels, as they adjusted to their new environments. You never tell them (“this is your new home”), as it is Not and will Never replace that. Familiar items such as Lamps, Spreads, Family Photos serve as their continuum of Life, as time slowwwly passes.
    The Wishing Well is a Tool of Hope & Longing deep with Dreams & Wishes, some coming to fruition, alas there is Hope. Not sure of your Career @ this time, but thinking you may be one of those who has served as a Leader.

    • Thank you Marilyn, I’m sure you were a great help to your residents and their families. I understand and agree with what you say. Families count on people like you, when we have to turn and walk away, walk out the door until our next visit. I am so glad you added your wisdom to this post. Very nice, Ara.

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