Gifts From Your Loved One- Sometimes It's Just A Peace of Mind
Mara and I were trading stories over the weekend about aging parents and dementia. Mara's mother currently is in a nursing home with dementia while her father passed away a long time ago. At one point in the conversation, Mara recounted, "I was putting on some earrings recently that my mother had given me and this suddenly made me so sad. I felt like an orphan, since these were some of the last gifts she gave me."
I noted to Mara that I've found that there are other less tangible gifts that my mother gave me that still show up now, six months after her death. I find traces of Mom in my choices of clothes, my willingness to try different cuisines, and my varied interests. For instance, Mara and I have plans to head to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to view an exhibit about Pompeii. I know that Mom, who had a love of history that she actively shared with me through extensive travels, would approve.
During a later conversation, Mara became more contemplative. "You know, I started thinking that the earrings weren't the last gift that my mother gave me. I thought about a bowl painted with iris that I treasure."
Then Mara paused and reflected. "Actually, now that I think about it, I think the biggest gift that she gave me was her own decision to go into assisted living. She lived on her own for a year after my father died, and we hired someone to come in and check on her on a daily basis. But by finally admitting that she needed to move into assisted living, Mom gave her children a wonderful gift--peace of mind."
Despite the stress created by watching a loved one deal with Alzheimer's, you can continually find the gifts that your loved one leaves to you, often in unexpected places. It might not be tangible gifts (although Mom still gave me pictures that she had tried to color with crayons and stuffed animals that she won in bingo while she was in the nursing home). Instead, the gifts might come in the form of decisions (like Mara's mother's decision to go into assisted living) or stories and lessons (which is what I've tried to describe through various shareposts). And once the loved one is gone, the gifts come through precious memories and the multiple ways that our loved ones have influenced our behaviors and actions.