I spend a lot of time doing what my Dad would call “gazing at my navel.” Don’t take this literally for I seldom meditate in the nude. I do contemplate, almost all of the time.
When participating in whatever social events the nursing home is having for my husband and his fellow patients, I try to think about what they were like before the dementia got to them. How did they live? Who is important to them? Today one of the women came rolling out of her room in tears. She was asking “Who am I?” repeatedly and one of the staff let her know her name so she would calm down. How sad to recognize that you don’t know who you are.
If compassion were ever to come rolling out of your soul, it would be in a memory care unit at a nursing home. I wonder at the patience of the workers, the time they take with each patient, the care they show. And through it all, the staff has smiles on their faces. There isn’t a grumpy one there and I am so fortunate to have found this home for my husband.
He gets special attention because he smiles. Everyone can still see the bad little boy in his smile, even at the age of 75 and in his current state of health. His personality is still there. He may have forgotten a few things he’s done over his life, but he hasn’t forgotten how to be a brat or how to have as much fun as he can. Today he will get to listen to music, played live by a lady who brings her guitar and sings for them. Imagine, she gives up her time, free of charge, to come and play and sing for the patients. That’s compassion in action.
Compassion isn’t something I was shown how to use in my childhood. I was raised by someone who was jealous of others and scornful of those who needed help, as if that made them weak. It took her death to make me realize that she was just frightened of being weak herself and that no one had ever shown her how to be compassionate either. I think her mother tried, but my Mom wanted to be like her father, not her mother. And so she bickered and fought and refused to be happy. She used her chance to be happy as a punishment for us, her family, so we would know that we weren’t good enough to make her happy. How sad. I see that now. Now I can have compassion for her, something I never could do when she was living. I was too busy walking on eggshells……….