Reflections on Caregiving
On June 19th, my mother peacefully left this earth. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on my eight months of intense caregiving, primarily how our presence can have an impact on others. For those eight months, I stepped into mom’s bubble, playing improv with Alzheimer’s while soaking up the intermittent glimmers of my mom’s persona. Her death forced me out of that sacred space and upon my exit, the response from her community reminded me she was not just my mom. She was a loyal friend, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and a nurturer of children who, for a multitude of reasons, no longer had mothers.
Quite often, people refer to an individual’s contribution as “a drop in the bucket,” meaning the impact is hardly noticeable. When a drop of water hits the surface; however, waves ripple far and wide. I thought about all the drops my mom put in buckets — her own, her family, her community, her friends, as well as strangers.
“Your mom was the mom of the neighborhood,” a childhood neighbor said. Several friends reflected tenderly on their friendship and said, “Alma was so welcoming when I came to town. Alma was a lot of fun!” As a child, I witnessed her students running to her in the grocery store aisle and tackling her with their 3-foot hugs. Her impact as a teacher was also reflected in her Long Leaf Pine award, the highest honor in the state of North Carolina, for organizing a summer tutoring program to prepare Kindergartners for First Grade.
This is what we do when we show up fully in the world — we make waves by adding our drops to buckets. Everything we do has an impact on our friends, loved ones, neighbors and strangers.
Years ago, I asked my mom how she would describe her life purpose. She said, “My purpose is to raise my family, be a good friend and entertain.” I can say with a full heart my mom fulfilled her mission. Her drops came in steady streams of love and the ripples were far-reaching.
Words cannot fully express how grateful I am for being able to help my mom have a peaceful transition. And I know it’s no accident I spent those eight months with a community of seniors and caregivers, formerly my mom’s and now mine.