In the summer of 2016, Cindy and I moved my 93-year-old mother to Charlotte so that we could oversee her care in a memory care facility. We visit with her most days and over the course of months have come to know the other residents that reside with her quite well. It seems they are living out the last phase of their lives in a very tiny world. They live and die and are replaced with others but their personalities and stories stick with me.
When I talk with them, they are often seeing me for the first time although I have met them dozens of times before. They ask if I have seen a deceased husband who has not visited today but is expected at any time. Other times someone may have worked a long night shift and be particularly tired. Another resident may be waiting for the last bell of the day to ring so they can go home after a day filled with small, busy children. One resident is madly in love with another and lives out her passion in intricate tales of desire and distrust that involve characters both seen and unseen by everyone around her.
During my visits, the people there often allow me to hug them or hold their hands as they talk with words and stories that often I cannot connect to the current situation. I sometimes assist with way finding, discovering a lost item or trying to ease the anxiety they may be experiencing. There are frequent visits spent laughing or sometimes singing and dancing. When I leave, I reflect on what I have just learned about someone or the difference in their actions from a previous day. I experience the joys and sometimes sorrows of their lives, but I always relish the privilege of connecting and sharing with them.
In the digital world we all occupy, we spend hours with our heads down staring at a virtual reality created through electronic gadgets. We give up precious time and lose the opportunity to experience life and connect with people who surround us. This special time with my mother reminds me to be present in the here and now. When I am sitting quietly with her and the ‘could be’ and ‘should be’ thoughts of the world intrude, I take a breath and remind myself of all that I have learned and the wonderful experiences I have gained by being right here right now in this seemingly tiny world.