Love and Gratitude: It May Be All We Need
Last November, much of my family gathered from near and far to attend my grandmother’s surprise 94th birthday. It was a big deal. You have your normal surprise party hustle and bustle behind the scenes to try and have it all go off just right. Lots of house cleaning - ugh! This party had an added complication though. You see, my grandmother has dementia. The question wasn’t limited to whether we’d pull off the surprise party itself, it also included whether she’d even know who we were.
A lot of planning went into the party to try and ensure the gathering was meaningful. Her age, coupled with her failing memory, made it all the more urgent for family members to gather to celebrate her life and to be sure she knew it. My mother and aunt had speeches prepared to convey the lasting impact she has had on our family, integrated with humorous stories of years past. The cake had a picture of my grandmother when she was younger, and a picture of all her children.
It was an emotional day for everyone. I’m happy to say she recognized most everyone. She was touched by the numerous ways in which she was honored. The day was spent talking, showing our love by planting kiss after kiss and holding hands; and watching football (one of her favorite pastimes, especially if the Redskins or Steelers were playing). I can only imagine what she felt - seeing loved ones amassed to celebrate her and the impact she’s had on their lives.
Shortly after that party, she moved into a memory-care facility. Since her move, each and every attempt to call her was met unanswered. It was such a double-edged sword. I was happy that the facility packed her day, morning to night with activities. But I was also sad to not hear her voice.
This is coming up for me today because I finally got the chance to speak with her yesterday. It was wonderful to hear her voice. Unfortunately, the call dropped repeatedly and we continued to re-engage in conversation four to five times. (That can break the flow of a normal conversation, let alone a discussion with someone suffering from dementia!) When I first spoke with her, she sounded happy to hear my voice. Yet on follow up calls, it was heartbreaking to hear her question who I was.
Yesterday was stressful. The discussion with my grandmother certainly played a part. We also had another family member go to the hospital. She’s currently under observation and hopefully will make a full recovery. Until then, we wait and pray.
Today, I give thanks for time spent with loved ones. No one is promised tomorrow. We must give our love to family and friends, as much and as often as we are able.
Be open to what comes.