J. and I picked Mom up for church this morning. I found her wrapped up in the soft, fuzzy blanket I got for her at Christmas. I had forgotten to let the aides know that they should dress her for church, so she was in some soft velveteen sweatpants; Mom still is concerned about how she looks, so I suggested we change pants. I helped her into some black pants that looked OK with the top she had on, got her jacket, and we headed out the door.

Mom enjoys going to church, and there were some songs during the service that she knew and could sing along with (see previous post “Good day.”). She did quite well, in fact–I was pleased with the outing–and I hurried us out the door to get her back to Bickford so I could get back for Sunday School class. As we went, I suddenly saw Mom through the eyes of someone who hadn’t known her over the years, and it made my heart ache. She looked as if she had never been anything but a hunched old woman who doesn’t have good sense, and missing a front tooth to boot(which will be repaired tomorrow!). This is so far from the truth about her, that seeing her so is bitter indeed. It makes me want to cover her with photos of her life: standing with a tennis racket as a college senior, full of energy; swinging her golf club and sending the ball straight and true; at the kitchen counter preparing dinner for 20, slim as she always was–at least until now. A busy, highly competent, caring woman who made a difference for most people who knew her, not least to her children and grandchildren. How unfair for the world to see only her great age and deterioration! Perhaps I should order a t-shirt with the words “As I am now, so shalt thou be,”–a quote from a long-ago gravestone. I beg any who read this: when you inevitably meet a bent and elderly someone, smile, be patient, remember he or she has a history about which we can know nothing. Honor that individual in some small way, and hope someone will return the favor to us in the future, should any of us be fortunate enough to live long.

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5 Responses to Sunday

  1. Kristi says:

    I was in a position to meet many older people as hospital patients, always at their worst, in pain, confused, in hospital gowns, bed head, no make-up and very vulnerable. Their children would come and apologize for their mother or father’s apparent deficits. I met the person as they were knowing nothing about what they were in the past. I accepted them as they were at that moment. They could be interesting, funny, sad and confused but always a person deserving of respect and assistance. Those who had had strokes were the hardest for family members as the change could be so sudden and dramatic. It was hardest to see the family’s reactions, their sadness, grief and pain. There was little to do to comfort them. With the tables now turned, I remember my own reactions and thank the good people who care for my parents now, just as they are, with courage, dedication and love.

  2. kathym says:

    Beautifully said, Kristi. Thanks for the response.

  3. Helga says:

    Kathy and Kristi, I appreciate this reminder very much. I had a similar experience with my own mother, in the last year of her life, when she aged rapidly and badly. One time in particular I remember. The night before she died, she was having great difficulty breathing, seemed to be choking, and we were very distraught. We called the hospice nurse to come over, though it was midnight. She was a new one, had not visited my mother before. I felt a strong need for her to MEET my mom, the person she was, not the choking skeletal shell that lay in the bed. I brought in a picture from her and my dad’s 50th anniversary party, when she was still mostly herself, and happy and glowing. I told her, “THIS is who my mom is.” My sister was very upset with me, saying “No, THIS now is our mother also.” That was true, but I still had that strong need for the nurse to know her former self. Was I denying my mom’s condition? Was that the wrong impulse for me to do that? I have wondered. I didn’t mean to show dishonor to my mother in her current state.

  4. kathym says:

    I’ve thought about you wanting the new person to know more fully who your mother was, and I am sure it was not disrespectful nor a dishonor to your mother. Your were not denying your mother’s condition–how could you?–but perhaps reassuring yourself as well as wanting this stranger to know that here lies our mother, and she was much more than you can ever imagine. Respect her as we do, please.

  5. Helga says:

    That is it, exactly, Kathy. Thank you for giving me the words. You have a gift with that.

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