Sunday, July 26, 2015

What Was It About Mildred?

 Down the corridor, in the last room on the left sat a 95 year old woman petting a white, furry toy cat. She slept with the cat as if it were alive, brushing it's hair with knotted knuckles and wrinkled palms appearing curiously elegant and perfectly defined.  Hands that had ironed 200 pieces of cloth a day 80 years ago,  from a heavy metal block heated from the platform of a wood burning stove. Hands that had reached up high to hang linens on the line, anchored with wooden clothespins out back, under the morning sun to dry. Hands that birthed babies,  hands that changed diapers, and  hands turning pages, holding toddlers on her lap, " two at a time,"  while reciting nursery rhymes. And there were praying hands, cradling other hands held close to her heart offering words of wisdom, just before someone close had died. And everyone who worked at the nursing home loved to serve Mildred, but no one knew "why."

What was it about Mildred that made her so easy to spend time with? And what was it about Mildred that uplifted an entire staff and made everyone feel so alive?  And why didn't anyone ever come to visit Mildred? Surely, Mildred had family and friends who loved her. Why didn't anyone ever stop by?

There were never any complaints from Mildred, even when she appeared to be sick. There were days when Mildred could barely sit up in bed, and other days when Mildred would surely not make it through another day.  But the spark of love, and twinkle in Mildred's eyes just kept on shining. And her face always lit up with a huge smile, every time anyone would engage Mildred in conversation. She always said, "Thank you." And was always very happy talking to her stuffed cat. "You are not any trouble at all.  You are the perfect cat. You never ask for anything at all, just a scratch under the chin and you,"purr," so pretty.  You are my beautiful kitty, and I love you!."  Mildred would recite the same thing over and over again.  And at the age of 96, with her stuffed cat held close to her heart with her arms folded over her chest, and a smile on her upturned face, ready to fly - Mildred quietly passed away.

  At Mildred's funeral, in the chapel of the nursing home, the entire staff felt her loss. There were many tears, even from the most seasoned professionals. The chapel, seating only 75, was filled to twice it's capacity!!  People all over town filed in, one by one to offer their last, "good-bye."  Young families, total strangers, close family members, many who never once came to see Mildred and her cat when she was still alive, all attended her funeral. People appeared out of the wood work, (as they say). But oddly enough, the question was, "why"? Why would people wait to acknowledge a special person in their life, in death, (rather than in life)  - after they had died?

  And then a young woman of 30 spoke with the minister during coffee and explained the unspoken words of all the gray elephants sitting on folded chairs at Mildred's funeral. "It was too hard for me to see her that way, Reverend. She used to be so easy to talk to, and well read. But after she lost her memory, it was like she was a different person, and we didn't even know her. Would she even know if we came to visit? It hurt me to see her that way, and staying away was easier than having her forget me."

  So, Mildred made her transition into heaven. But, for those who were unable to visit with her, Mildred most likely forgave them, and is still sending them heartfelt beams of love from the other side.  But for those who still cry when they think of what she gave them in her forgetting, her unconditional love that she freely shared with them will never be forgotten.

  Adaptation is amazing! As one sense is taken, our Creator gives us a stronger sense. And for those few workers at the nursing home who, "got it," and saw the glass as, " half full,"  instead of, " half empty,"  the gift was their's for the taking.

What was it about Mildred? As the mind forgets, the heart remembers. When people are able to meet from a place of spiritual connectedness as one heart, truly in the moment without judgement or expectation;  thoughts, words and conversations disappear. They have no meaning. When we look beyond appearances and let go of fear, there is only the presence of love.  There is only love. And where there is love and compassion, there is peace.

 So, as the late poet Maya Angelou has said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  Mildred reminded people to live in the moment, and by freely sharing her compassion, joy, peace and life with others, she let people know that they were greatly loved. When people think of Mildred, (even today), they always remember her love!

Positive Communication methods for people living with dementia:  We recommend seminars by Teepa Snow,M.S., OTR/L.FAOTA, Naomi Feil, MSW,, and her books, all of them. And the life changing, ground breaking books, "Contented Dementia," by Dr. Oliver James, "The Mindful Caregiver," by Nancy L. Kriseman, and "Deeper Into The Soul," by Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D, and Bogna Szymkiewicz, Ph.D

Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

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