Yes, it really does say that. There is great power, on many levels, in being debilitated & in supporting someone who is. If you want a good read on it, check out Ram Dass’, Still Here, a book I was blessed to in tandem with Mom.
Thought about Mom during my morning ablutions (look it up!). The effect it had on all three of us that a torn rotator cuff confined her to bed once she was tucked in. The woman was independent, except for that pesky shoulder, which meant she was stuck in bed, couldn’t put on her stockings or put on/tie her shoes. She needed us for that.
And we were honored. That’s not just rosy-glow false memory. John & I treated helping Mom with daily tasks – like getting out of bed to go to the loo – that we didn’t even give a thought.
During the night, Mom would ask John – whose studio was next to her bedroom – for an assist; if he’d gone off to bed, she’d rattle her clappy hands noise maker & I’d come down to lend a hand – well, actually two, along with arms & back.
She’s always give me that sheepish smile & voice her regrets for bothering me at such a dreadful hour. Especially if she’d already called me down from what she called the tower bower before. I’d look at her & say, “It’s just an excuse for me to get a hug.” Once she was back in bed & I’d tucked her blanket around her, instead of telling each other “Night, night,” we’d say, “Morning, morning.”
After writing yesterday’s post on the power of touch, am appreciating all over again those countless treks down stairs, sometimes two or even three a night – well over a thousand, I reckon. And as tired as I was, as longing to stay in bed, snug next to John, I don’t recall ever thinking, “Oh my gosh, this again.” I treated it as a love ritual & am so glad I – we – did. All three of us.
Every night, John & I had the opportunity to hold a beloved elder in our arms, to lift her up & help set her on her feet, give her an arm to the bathroom, if needed, or, over her last year, to “Lamb” – her commode, which followed her wherever we went. Every morning, we had the opportunity to literally kneel at her feet, helping put on & hook her stockings (Mom handed her girdle on her own), then her shoes. Mom could handle putting on her slip, but needed help with her bra & with putting on a blouse.
They were little things that had a sense of the sacred in them. It’s small wonder we related so strongly to Ram Dass’ book, which we read about six months before her final fall & adieu. All three of us came to the situation with “right attitude” – with a sense of gratitude for the indescribable blessings it provided. Am realizing for the first time that the reason the three of us could handle her last seven weeks, especially the last week here in hospice, so well, so naturally, was that it was simply an extension of what we already did. Is it possible to change an incapacitated elder’s sanitary pad with a sense of appreciation on both sides? Yes.
People who think of debility as a fate worse than death miss the treasures that are only revealed in moments of complete need & complete support. I know that Mom would have been happy as all get out to NOT have a nasty torn rotator cuff, to not spend her last seven weeks paralyzed on one side. Am just as sure she would not have given up the gifts that were given to all of us – gifts I still treasure – through those moments of need & loving giving.
There is great power in debility, on all sides, if we have the strength to let it light up our lives & tenderize our hearts.