Almost two years have passed since my Mom entered the nursing home where she lives.
Those early days were pretty tough. Mom was terrified, paranoid and still battling delirium. I was terrified, guilt ridden and exhausted. But, when I think back on those days, it is the people who came alongside me that I remember the most. I have a collection of warm memories of my family, friends, church, nurses and staff holding me up during this time. But, the people that surprised me the most were the family members of other nursing home residents.
I still remember Mom’s second day at the home. Despite, the warm spring weather, Mom had parked herself in a seat near the door, wrapped up tight in a long coat and scarf – (I don’t think she was planning on staying). Knowing I had given my Mom the safest and most appropriate setting for her current circumstances, wasn’t much comfort that day. As I sat there fighting back tears, the warmest, kindest gentleman approached; a man whose wife was in the nursing home recovering from a stroke. His caring and quiet presence calmed both Mom and I.
He had that look in his eye that said, “I know your pain, you’re gonna make it.”
Over the next few months, other spouses and children also comforted and encouraged Mom and I – much more than they probably will ever know. There was the adorable Scottish lady who was always so happy to see me and share a hug and chat. (Visiting Mom was difficult then, she gave me something to look forward to.) There was the helpful son who faithfully visited his father every day. He did so much helping that I thought he was an activity staff for almost two months before learning he was a volunteer. There was also the tender, gentle wife of a man who had been hospitalized the same time as my mother. She and I had wept together in the hospital waiting room. She too was so kind and supportive to both of us. Often when I’d arrive she was walking the halls calming my frantic mother.
One by one, I watched these people lose their loved ones, the people they loved and dedicated their lives and time to. I think about them almost every time I visit Mom and wonder how they are coping and if they know how much their presence meant to me.
Lately, the gentleman is back. His wife passed away a couple of months ago and he comes in often to visit his wife’s old roommate. His loss and pain is still so real and his eyes quickly fill up with tears. Now, it is my turn to comfort, hug and come alongside. I’d take him home with me if I could.
In keeping with the last post’s theme of kindness, never underestimate what your smile, greeting or listening ear means to hurting people. Kindness is the balm that heals the broken hearts around us. It doesn’t take much time and it costs us nothing.
I guess that is why this blog exists and this community. While strangers, we share an experience that links us together. Through the words we share, we look each other in the hearts and say, “I know your pain, you’re gonna make it!”