Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Honor Special Needs Friends and Family with Your Presence

No way for human beings to live

I don’t know about you, but visiting a loved one at a full care nursing facility can be a pretty depressing affair. A significant exception was my most recent stopover at one. In this case it was to see one of my favorite aunts. For the very last time.
               Spending time at one of those places can be challenging for me, not so much because the person I’m seeing has to be there. I came to terms with the cycle of life and need for such places long ago. Instead, the troubling part is wading the gauntlet of aged men and women confined to wheelchairs and beds who receive few to no visitors. No friends, no family. It’s pathetic that so many infirmed parents are just left (dare I say it: abandoned) there.
               In my aunt’s case, her family visited every day. I’m not sure if it was planned or it just worked out that way, but in either case, she was bookended with regular morning and evening visits.
My Aunt Millie was on the last page of her life when I saw her. Although she was not generally responding to the outside world, I was fairly sure that if she was not sleeping, she had within her an awareness of her surroundings and the people nearby.
               I was close to my aunt in the sense that, as a child, she was an influential figure in my life. And although we didn’t see each other every day during my formative years, she held sway over me in ways an older person can touch a younger person through random acts of kindness.
It’s not that she impacted my life in king-sized ways – like saving me from drowning or raising me as a child or giving me a rocket ship for Christmas. Instead, it was quite simply her love. I liken her ever-present affection to the way something cooks in a crockpot; simmering and steady over time.
Strive to be a present help
               Mom and I had to travel 4 ½ hours to visit her sister, my aunt. That put a strain on mom’s retirement age body, and my business schedule. But we made the trip as often as we could. Over time, Aunt Millie became less and less responsive. The dementia that affected her grew until she finally became largely unresponsive. When we arrived for what we believed would most likely be our last opportunity to visit, her daughters and sons were all there, save one.
               Years ago I had seen my father pass, quite literally in front of my eyes. So when I laid eyes on my aunt, I knew she was not long for this world. But that was okay. At least to me. She had lived a long and (from my perspective) impactful life. Although she was physically close to transitioning from this world, to me she looked beautiful. Maybe ‘looked’ isn’t as accurate a word as ‘felt.’ She seemed at peace, which put me in the same frame of mind.
               I watched as family members held Aunt Millie’s hand and said whatever was in their heart. When it was my turn I did the same, letting her know in no uncertain terms what she meant to me and the influence she had on my life. Who can say with certainty that my aunt was awake and aware of the special messages we shared with her? That really doesn’t matter as much as our willingness to put ourselves out there and just ‘be’ with her and family. If only more folks would do the same with their mothers, fathers and special needs family members, so that they feel honored and respected. And loved.

No comments:

Post a Comment