Mine Friend's Favorite

Celebration of Life + Caregiving

{Generic names given for confidentiality.}

On 27 August 2016, I went to a “Celebration of Passing” for an 88-year-old who had a stroke in mid-2015. James had been declining over the years and the stroke added to his difficulty in mobility as he had muscle weakness and medium aphasia. His daughter, Lynn, didn’t want anyone boo-hoo-ing over James’ passing but instead, look at all the things he accomplished and be happy that he lived.

James philosophy of life was “Firsts count, that makes you a pioneer.” He was of another culture and challenges in the 30’s were tough, but he lived his word. He pioneered in many areas of business, bought and sold buildings, co-owned a town in rural Kansas, then bought a ranch in Missouri and became a cowboy.

Another philosophy was that his obligation as a father was to have Lynn experience the greatness of life. Until she went to college in Washington in the 80’s, he took her to places and events in and around wherever they lived. Years later in 2011, Lynn settled in Culver City, moved her parents into an assisted living home and said it was her turn to nurture them. Every week she would take her parents to places and events in Northern and Southern California so they could experience the West Coast life.

In 2015, James had his stroke and Lynn was not able to give him as much care as she had. Her friend, Rosie, took up the slack. Rosie worked with students on weekday afternoons, so she made time weekday mornings to take care of James. She told him she would be his caretaker, but he didn’t like the word, so she became his “Personal Assistant”.   

James mixed words, but he still knew what he wanted. If he wanted a lemon, he asked for a banana, then said to place all the yellow food in front of him, and he picked the lemon. Since Rosie used to work with mentally challenged children, she is familiar with speech obstacles. She made a picture board for James to indicate that he wanted that particular thing. There were pictures of foods, hygiene, books, television, etc. When he pointed to a picture, she would say the name and have him repeat it, so “he might remember the word next time”.

At the Celebration, I told Rosie I admired her spirit and dedication to the well-being of others. She said the work benefits her also. The “give and take” progressively helps her understand Strokes and makes her a more accepting person. Shortly after caretaking for James, Rosie decided to switch from working with children to working with Stroke Survivors at convalescent homes because it seemed homes were lacking in that area and for her, this was more spiritually fulfilling.

Among the many resulting miracles is that James’ wife, June, who has Alzheimer’s, seemed to become more cognizant after she acknowledged that her husband of 60 years passed away. At the Celebration, although off-key and jumbling words, she sang along with some of the tunes. If she didn’t know the words, she slapped her hands on the table in rhythm with the songs. When certain events were brought up by speakers, she would smile because she remembered them.

This experience brought to mind what I heard a very long time ago, “We find ourselves when we lose ourselves in the service of others.” I need to repeat it when I’m in self-pity about my stroke, and instead take action to help those “others”.

Posted in Caregivers on August 28 at 05:18 PM

Comments (0)

No login