Surprise sidewalk art brightens Asbury Towers resident’s weekend

Monday, March 23, 2020
Unable to visit with family in person while on lockdown for COVID-19, Asbury Towers resident Doris Smith instead got a personal message in sidewalk chalk on Saturday morning.
Courtesy photos/CANDY PRICE

Chalk it up to a little love and human kindness.

Late Saturday morning, Asbury Towers resident Doris Smith got a surprise from granddaughter Rachel Smith.

“She called me on my cell phone and said, ‘Grandma, look out your kitchen window,’” Doris recalled Monday morning. “And there they all were standing there.”

“They” were Rachel, her husband Brad and their two small children, ages four and two. Besides standing below Doris’s third-floor window on the northwest corner of the Greencastle assisted living facility, they had decorated parts of six sidewalk squares with messages of love and inspiration.

Among the messages for Doris were “He has the whole world in his hands,” illustrated with a drawing of large hands holding the globe, as well as “We love you,” kisses from the two great-grandchildren and a number of flowers, a pair of lips and a heart.

“It was so pretty,” Doris said, recalling makeshift mural that was soon washed away by weekend rains. “It was such a good idea. It’s how you can contact people when we’re stuck in our rooms.”

The residents of Asbury Towers have been quarantined to their rooms for about a week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently gripping the nation and the world.

Rachel Smith said she feels such measures could be especially tough on her grandmother, an extrovert by nature.

“It’s tough. She’s super social,” Rachel said. “She says it’s not been bad. She’s spent a lot of time on the phone. ”

Regardless of her grandmother’s encouraging words, Rachel wanted to do show Doris some love, even if the family can’t currently visit her residence.

Decorating the sidewalk was Rachel’s idea, though Brad did most of the art, with only minimal help from the kids.

“We tried to get the kids to color some but they just wanted to run and play,” Rachel said with a laugh.

Brad Smith of Greencastle decorates the sidewalk outside Asbury Towers for his wife’s grandmother, Doris Smith, while his young children stand nearby on Saturday.
Courtesy photo/RACHEL SMITH

Rachel added that Doris lost her husband Lawrence last year, making any contact with her even more meaningful in this season.

“She lost her husband last year, so she’s going through this completely alone,” Rachel said. “They’d been married since 1952, so they were married for like 67 years before he passed last summer. He was the one who was with her through everything.”

The younger woman gets choked up in thinking about it.

“She’s done great with it,” Rachel said. “She’s been strong through everything. He was in the Army, so he was gone a lot. It’s just tough to think of her sitting there by herself.”

Besides enjoying surprise sidewalk art, Doris has been spending a lot of time on the phone, which Gwen Tucker of social services at Asbury Towers said is common.

“We’re making sure the phones are available to our residents,” Tucker said, “so if families want to reach out to their loved ones, we’re making sure they can do that.”

Asbury Towers can be reached at 653-5148.

In addition, the facility is trying to set up video chats through Skype, FaceTime and other services.

“With some of our residents ... the generation doesn’t quite understand that,” Tucker said. “But when we’re able, we’re trying to do that.”

Of course, there are more traditional means of remote contact.

“To get a card in the mail is always wonderful,” Tucker said, “or a hand-written note.”

Though the situation is ever-changing, as of Monday, loved ones could also bring cards, notes and gifts to the front door of the facility at the corner of Jackson and Poplar streets.

The activities department is also visiting with residents on a daily basis, ensuring their social needs are met in addition to physical.

Tucker also praised the families in what is a trying time for everyone.

“We have some very wonderful families and I know it’s just as hard for the families as it is for the residents,” Tucker said. “The families have been great. They understand why were asking them to stay away right now.”

She also emphasized that Asbury Towers will work with families to make special arrangements if needed.

“If there’s a situation where we need to connect them to their loved ones, we’ll bend over backward for them,” Tucker said.

In the case of the Smiths, it was the family’s own initiative to reach out while not breaking the current rules.

“It’s just a way to brighten her spirits, to let her know that even though I’m not there we are still thinking about her,” Rachel said. “Just trying to come up with a way to kind of keep everybody connected through all of this.”

The only regret Doris had was she couldn’t share the gesture with her friends and neighbors.

“Of course, nobody else from here could come over and see it,” she said.

She still has the memories and the warm feelings, though.

“I was just so ‘got,’” Doris said.

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