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Help for Caregivers Blog

Keep up with some of the latest helpful information regarding caregiving from reliable sources.

The Present

5/12/2022 12:00:00 AM

A wrapped gift with a bow

On a day when I felt demoralized by the difficulties in my life, one of my nursing colleagues helped me with this story of two old women who shared a nursing home room.

Marian was so weak, she was only able to sit up in bed for brief periods each day; Dorothy was almost immobilized with arthritis. Despite pain and disabled bodies, these women had lively spirits and enjoyed talking with each other. They reminisced about vacations and jobs; being married and raising children; holidays and birthdays; beautiful gardens and favorite recipes.

Marian’s bed was near the window. Whenever she could sit up, she’d pass the time describing all that she saw through the window. Dorothy loved those times when Marian lit up her life by describing the world outside. There was a park with a hill in the distance, paths that wound up-hill, bordered with flower gardens and trees. With each season the flowers changed from spring tulips, to summer daisies and in the fall, to brightly colored mums and trees with scarlet and golden leaves. The park had swings and slides where children played, benches where parents rested a moment, while watching over their active children. Sometimes there were lovers who kissed. On Memorial Day a parade passed by, complete with floats, marching bands and veterans in World War II uniforms, like their husbands used to wear.

Each time Marian described the spectacle and beauty beyond her window, Dorothy closed her eyes. She imagined the splendor in great detail and savored the sights she could see only in her mind’s eye.

Last Thursday, Marian died in her sleep. Not only had Marian passed away, but so had her eyes on the world. Dorothy asked the nurse to be switched into Marian’s bed. When getting settled, she turned to the window and saw for herself, for the first time. Beyond the curtains was a blank wall!

Confronting the wall and the loss of her friend was too much; Dorothy broke down and cried. How could this be? How could Marian have described such magnificent sights and sound while looking at…nothing?

The wise nurse replied, “Maybe she found joy by helping you feel happy and forget your pain for a while. When we care about others we share their joys and sorrows. When shared, burdens and sadness are cut in half. But when joy is shared, it’s multiplied many times over.”

If you want to feel joy, reach out and share in someone’s joys and sorrows; your presence is a gift to them. Joy will also rise when you practice gratitude for all your blessings. Do yourself a favor; be grateful for today because today is a gift. That’s why it’s called “The Present.”

Your presence and gratitude are gifts to both you and others in your life. Savor these gifts as one very effective way to take good care of yourself as you care for others…Jane