My parents have to stay healthy for a long time and die quick painless deaths, because i am too selfish for the time/energy/patience my mother (who is up for sainthood) has given her mother this past year. Though now that i think about it perhaps i don't give myself enough credit, because while i don't have that kind of giving devotion for my grandmother, i absolutely do for my friends. I'd still rather i never have to do anthing even vaguely Bob Murray-esque for my parents (or other family), though.
Bob Murray is an elderly man my family knows from church. His wife, Louise, had Alzheimer's for something like 11 years and he took care of her and when she needed to be in a nursing home he visited her every day (was the only person who could get her to eat). My mother and her mother visited him over Easter and my mother wrote that he is on his way out, but he still enjoys company and blessedly still has people who call and/or visit. From my mother's e-mail to me after the visit:
But he was delighted to see us and said we brought him back to all the people he used to know, and times that have passed.
He also said he was grateful that he was well when Louise wasn't so he could care for her.
He said she spoiled him before she was ill, so he didn't begrudge her the care he gave her -- I so love that about him, he sees what he did for Louise as "what you do" not anything heroic. What does it say about our society that we view visiting your wife daily a heroic act?
I held his hand the whole time and sat near him on the bed. I often think it's sad that our elders are not touched -- all those who would touch you are gone. And human touch can be a powerful thing. I hope it was a blessing. I know our visit was -- he said he doesn't have adequate words to say how much he appreciated our taking the time. I understand -- and you know, we were only there an hour.
"Can you not watch with me one hour?"
I had an interesting conversation with Tina [my mother's boss's wife] this week where I told her how important it is to visit people even when you can't make it better. She was somewhat confused about what to do with her friend whose 2 year old is being treated for (likely to be terminal) brain cancer. She doesn't understand the power of her presence to this woman. I encouraged her to visit often, even if briefly. Because Tina works at Children's, she can keep visits short, but still frequent. Maybe some of what I've learned along the way can be a blessing to Tina and her friend -- and wouldn't that be wonderful!