Spending time with people who are approaching the end of life is an experience I’ve come to value for the way it helps me put things in perspective. As a result, I’ve discovered that when I approach the week just one day at a time, as you do when circumstance prompts you to remember that each one is a gift, it becomes easier to discern the important things of life from the not so important.
Here are five things I’ve been reminded of after spending the past two weeks with a couple who are not only very special to me, they’re still deeply committed to each other after 45 years as husband and wife. The way they’ve been able to manage new challenges that have come their way due to illness, has been an inspiration to me.
1. Today is amazing!
One day last week I commented on the beautiful day outside. “What a gorgeous day!” The gentle man in the wheelchair looked out and just said, “Amazing!” His speech is very difficult to understand much of the time and he is no longer able to care for himself, but that didn’t prevent him from appreciating the natural beauty that was surrounding us. I was humbled to realise how often I can let a little discomfort or an uncomfortable experience cloud my appreciation of the beauty all around. Let’s remind each other, “Today is amazing!”
2. When we look back, we’ll think, “It wasn’t always easy, but it was worthwhile.”
In one of our many conversations recently, I was talking with this special lady as she was looking back on some of what she had shared with the man who was still her best friend. She freely expressed her gratitude for so much that they had enjoyed together. She said, “We had our moments, like everyone does, but I feel so fortunate.” The memories and feelings of gratitude were acting like a buffer against the uncertainty of the future. It’s not always easy, but persevering through the tough times can leave us knowing, “It was worthwhile.”
3. True respect and devotion are beautiful to watch
I’ve been touched by the devotion and thoughtfulness that has developed over many years, resulting in one partner advocating for the other when he can no longer advocate for himself. I hope to be as genuinely caring if this is my situation one day and on the flip side, there is the hope that I’ll be shown such love and respect if I’m unable to care for myself. Years of sharing and caring have developed true respect and devotion which are beautiful to watch!
4. Acknowledge the feelings and give yourself time
The experience of loss can be like a roller coaster of feelings – anger, sadness, confusion, uncertainty, hopefulness, despair and sometimes even guilt. There is no right or wrong way to deal with loss and this whole range of emotions is normal. If we can acknowledge the feelings with empathy and kindness, acceptance will eventually follow. Emotions will settle in their own natural way, whether we’re dealing with our own loss or supporting others, but it takes time.
5. Contentment is the result of doing what we can, while we can
I’ve been contemplating the difference between living so we don’t have regrets as opposed to aiming to be content along the way. It may seem like ‘splitting hairs’ but I wonder, is it possible to be so focused on not having regrets that we miss out on the present opportunities all around us? Taking time to nurture relationships with the people we love and respect is about doing what we can, while we can. The support of family and friends, a meal prepared, a card sent, a phone call made, are all little gestures of kindness that make dealing with loss a little easier.
Let’s embrace those around us and do what we can, while we can. We’ll be the richer for the experience.