Last month was the birthday of a very special woman who has been part of my family and my life for many years. On all previous years, I observed the tradition of sending her a birthday card, knowing that it would be received with gratitude and the love with which it was sent.
There was no birthday card sent, only because I know that she wouldn’t have recognized my name or the sentiment it represented. My cherished family member is a dementia resident of a nicely appointed and solicitous hospice center. Because she is many states away, I visited her last summer and know that she is oblivious to her surroundings and everything else.
Although I haven’t had to begin the mourning process, she is as lost to me as she could possibly be. My home is filled with reminders of her. She was famous for her photos, celebration of all holidays and thoughtful, sentimental gifts.
As we speak, every recollection of her except the last one is one of joy. Her current state reminds me of the fragility of life and how crucial it is to treasure every moment we share with loved ones. If it’s been too long since you reminded a loved one of your feelings, don’t wait another second to do so.
My fervent and unending hope is that my status will never duplicate hers and that those who love me will not need to endure my declining health and cognition. Most of us want to die quickly and without pain. While immediacy creates a shock and trauma to those left behind, they don’t need to watch the progression of death.
For the sake of not closing in sadness, I will forever treasure the memories of my family member as a healthy, thoughtful woman who put her family above all else. She will always be a lesson in kindness to me and those who knew her. If we can in any way emulate this form of compassion, we will all be of blessed memory. Shalom.