This time last year it seems I was having a hard time related to the more difficult aspects of my job. I find it interesting that almost to the year I am experiencing similar problems. Last year I spoke briefly of the loss that comes with the passing of my residents. This year this is the loss I have suffered over and over again. I've actually lost count of the deaths in these last few weeks there have been so many. Heartbreaking. While I am merely a caretaker given the job, for which I get paid, to help folks at the later part of their life I have to say I am terrible at keeping it as impersonal as all of that. My heart would not be so sad if I was good at doing so and I probably should not be in my current position if I wasn't so bad at keeping things impersonal. I fall in love. I am a woman blessed with the gift of numerous honorary grandparent, essentially.
Knowing a bunch of people who have lived for more than 80 years changes your whole outlook on life. You learn that "this too shall pass" is such a true statement. When you look at life in decades from time to time rather than moment to moment you learn to truly appreciate the moment to moment. I can look into the smiling face of my children and appreciate that smile, teeth missing, crooked, with lips, cheeks, chin caked in whatever they were just eating and drinking and know that one day they will leave my home, make a life on their own, may find it difficult to get back home to visit, may even not want to get back home to visit, and know that this moment is to be cherished because who knows what the future might bring and this moment is our legacy to each other. Every person you meet carries with them a history in the making. If you take a moment to notice them, learn about them, connect with them they can shape your history, can change your life, can teach you lessons you may never have learned.
This is my memoriam for some of those lives recently.
One that wasn't so recent but not that far back was T.B. A kindred spirit from the moment I met her, though she was 97 when I first met her it was not at the care center. She was one of only two patients I created a heart bond with in my work as an aide at the hospital. I broke the rules and gave her my phone number when she went home and enjoyed her sweet phone calls and voice messages. I lost contact with her for so long I feared calling her would bring me bad news as she was 97 after all and in frail health at the time I met her. I saw her again at the center, I got to hug her and talk with her and meet her daughter in the month or so before she passed. It was a blessing if not incredibly sad. She was an amazing lady with a dedicated daughter who lived a long and fulfilling life. I thank God often for bringing her to the care center in her last days, so I could say goodbye.
In most recent days I've lost M.A. a hopeless flirt to the point of being offensive (to some) I found him completely harmless and a person who brought me great joy on a daily basis. You will be missed my friend.
W.H. I fell in love with her, her husband, and their beautiful love. It inspired and left its mark and for that I will always be grateful.
A.Y. The thought of your epic mood swings will make me chuckle for years to come. The love and dedication from your sons have taught me that a truly good mother will always be loved no matter what the sands of time does to your mind and body.
N.D. I still sincerely hope I am you when I get old and gray. Beautiful and sweet and hilarious at times. The joy your brought me every single time I saw you is the legacy you left. Your beautiful singing will ring in my ears for years to come.
This post could go on for some time and though I could continue on about K.K. and J.N. and M.B. and all of the others I will keep it at this. I appreciate the fact that I daily get to meet, talk with, get to know the lives and families of so many. I am so blessed to love these people and see them into their final days.
I will end this post with my most recent loss. The hardest yet. My grandmother, Virginia. She was a strong woman who lived a life that was not always easy but who endured. I was not born into her family but was given the gift of being made a part of it no questions asked. I met my grandma when I was 5 and I never could have known then how important she would be in my life. My dad met her daughter, Tommie, in a silly and dramatic way which is a hilarious story all its own but I was unaware of the dramatics at that age. What I knew is that my dad had met a woman who with her presence brought me to safety when I was living in a situation no little girl should have to suffer through but sadly one in four do. I felt safe and warm with Tommie and she immediately introduced me to her parents, Vern and Virginia, who immediately took me in as their own granddaughter, loved me and I would even say adored me...I felt it as a child their absolute delight in knowing me. There were no strings attached. It often made me feel confident and always made me feel loved. Grandma was the type that had us over for weekend sleepovers, took us to church, taught me the love that God gives, and helped lead me on a path of being a good person with morals and who knew right from wrong. It was pretty clear what was right and wrong because she would certainly tell you what you did was wrong if she thought it was. She believed love included teaching and rebuking when necessary and while Grandma's rebukes were not usually welcome they were usually worth taking note of as her opinions and advice were grounded in the bible and her firmly held religious beliefs. She didn't try to hurt your feelings but if she thought you needed to hear the truth she would tell it whether it was going to hurt your feelings or not. She did this because she loved. Her advice, lectures, and all the rest were all given with love. Her love was so big she gave without question and forgave without it being asked. As I grew she was always there, watching and assisting whenever it was needed. She believed in me and that is probably one of the greatest gifts you could give a person. I graduated H.S. and she helped me find a way to make college happen. She co signed my student loans allowing me to pursue dreams without stress. She paid on those student loans after I graduated until she simply could not afford to do so any longer she did so even though it disappointed her that I was not paying them myself. I felt that disappointed in every part of me. It made me feel ashamed and sad and like I was not worthy of her love. She kept on loving me anyway. Even when that shame and guilt led me to not visit as often as she deserved she still would love me and appreciate the times I did come. She prayed for me always, I know it. Since she passed I keep asking myself, whose going to do that now? In the days before her death she was in the care center. While it is not my ideal place for any of my family I feel again it was a blessing for me. A chance to see my Grandma daily, the way I hadn't in years because of my own feelings of guilt and feeling as if I must be a constant disappointment to her. What I know is that in her last month, she never once mentioned my student loans to me leaving me to feel as though it was a speed bump to her that I perceived as a wall and that I let it get in the way of precious time I could have spent with this amazing woman. The day before she passed my grandpa Vern who was also in the care center was ill and needed to be sent out for an assessment. Grandma was so scared, I could see it even though she tried to appear calm. In that moment the only thing I could think to do was pray with her. I knew if there was anything that would ease her mind it would be this. I prayed with her, holding her hands, asking for healing as she whispered "lord please I can't be without my husband now," I prayed for calm for her and calm for me as I was quite panicked myself, never having seen my big strong grandfather so vulnerable and fragile. My prayer made her laugh (as my panic was quite obvious and the calm was certainly needed). I left her that day with the promise (that I hoped I could keep) that Grandpa would be back before dinner was served and that he would be ok. I left her with a smile on her face and chuckle on her lips because I told her how everyone was just gushing over how adorable she and grandpa were and how I was certain everyone wanted the love that they had. The last thing she said to me was she loved me. Due to my own shortcomings that may not have been the case if she wasn't at LCC when she passed and so I will always be grateful for her being there. The legacy she leaves started with the simple act of loving the little girl I was, teaching me by example what romantic love looks like, teaching me the love of God, showing me how love endures through good times and bad, that forgiveness is love, that teaching is love, that rebuking can be love, and her last words to me expressing an unending love for her husband and her love for me. Thank you Grandma for all of your love, I hope that I was able to show you at least a little how much that meant to me, how much you meant to me. I love you and though your body will be missed your legacy will remain in my heart for as long as I am alive and I only hope that I may pass your legacy on to others so that it will always live on.
Every person has within them a history, a legacy, a lesson you can learn, don't miss it. It could change your life!