It was a simple act of love and compassion.
Now the story has inspired people around the world.
Mary Helen Schmelzle, a 94-year-old resident at Life Care Center of Seneca, Kansas, was passing away, and Isabelle Jennings, an 18-year-old certified nursing assistant, wanted to be near her to comfort her in her last hours.
“She and I had grown very close,” Jennings shared. “I really connected to her and grew to love her.”
Early in Jennings’ career at Life Care Center of Seneca, she was humming while feeding Schmelzle, and Schmelzle requested that she sing instead. When she found that her caregiver had a beautiful voice, Schmelzle asked her to sing to her any time she was in her room.
“It kind of became our thing,” Jennings said.
On her day off during Schmelzle’s last days, Jennings came in to the facility to visit. She talked with Schmelzle and her family members. She went to leave but turned back and asked if she could sing one final song for Schmelzle.
“I knew that if I didn’t sing to her, she would be sad,” Jennings said.
Jennings chose “In the Garden,” one of Schmelzle’s favorite hymns.
Schmelzle’s daughter, Julie Nichol, got the song on video.
After Schmelzle passed away on Jan. 21, 2017, “The Today Show” got wind of the video and Jennings’ act of compassion and friendship. Jennings was surprised when the show contacted the facility to see if a reporter could interview her.
“It was just something that I did,” Jennings said. “It’s what I do – I sing to people.”
Reporter Meghan Holohan interviewed Jennings over the phone, and the article posted to “The Today Show” website on Feb. 15, 2017.
Jennings emphasized that she is not the only one at the facility who does caring acts like this one.
“I’m just one piece of the puzzle,” said Jennings. “There’s a lot of people who really cared about Mary Helen.”