During this busy time of the year so many of us are running around buying gifts for those they love to celebrate the holidays. Some have lost the meaning of what this time of year is really about. Sharing with those you love, paying it forward to those you don’t know, showing kindness, volunteering for those less fortunate. Sharing one of the most precious gifts there is – TIME. I have personally learned this year there will never be enough TIME….especially when you lose someone you love dearly.
This Christmas and all other holidays going forward will be different for my family. Today would have been my mom’s 76th birthday! Here she is last year on her 75th birthday. Little did any of us know it would be the last birthday we would be sharing a meal and singing Happy Birthday! My mom had a stroke on November 3rd and she died in Hospice on November 7th. It was heart wrenching for all of us to experience even though we all know death is part of life. You just never know when those you love will leave this earth to a better place. Your life can change in an instant!
My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year. When diagnosed they told us she probably had it for 4 years. She was pretty good at covering it up. My dad was her main caregiver at home. This included cooking, cleaning, keeping her on a schedule, doctor appointments and medication (which she would refuse to take). She was starting to spiral deeper into the disease and would become angry and agitated with him and with me when we would try to help her. It was difficult and discouraging to see her decline. There were times when she seemed fine and others when she was not well at all. We signed her up with PACE-ri.org, a wonderful agency. PACE helps aging participants and their families face many challenges maintaining their independence, while coordinating care for the participant. We finally received approval for my mom to start PACE on November 1, 2018. This would have given her some socialization and care in her home and my dad a much needed respite from being a caretaker 24-7. She was scheduled to go the agency for socialization on November 8th and have people come in to help at home twice a week. She never made it to PACE because of her stroke. I was amazed by the care PACE took to be sure everything was taken care of. They called and checked on my dad and on my family members after the passing of my mom. They came to my mom’s Celebration of Life and were warm and comforting. They went above and beyond. They gave the gift of their personal TIME!
I can’t help but think back about how frustrated I became with my mom the day we took my dad out for his birthday in late October. It was a beautiful fall day and we were taking my dad and mom to Publick House in Sturbridge and for a ride to see the foliage. She didn’t want to go. It took me an hour and a half to get her ready. During this time she was angry and agitated. We finally made it to the car and to the Publick House. We had a wonderful time, laughing and joking (at my dad’s expense) while eating a delicious meal. She was animated and full of conversation. We talked about the upcoming holidays. She ate more than any of us which was different since her appetite had not been good for the past few months. While sitting there watching her and my dad laugh and joke, I was relieved we didn’t give up getting her ready to go out. They both seemed relaxed and happy. I didn’t realize it would be the last time we would be together enjoying each other for a happy occasion. I almost forgot to take a photo when we were leaving. My better half Jonathan said “Let’s get a photo!” and he took a photo of my parents that I will cherish forever.
Christmas was always my mom’s favorite time of year. Her birthday fell two weeks before so we always celebrated by decorating the tree and making Christmas cookies. She made most of the ornaments on our tree. I still have most of these ornaments and I treasure them more than any new ones I may have added. My mom made the time to take care of all of us and made us realize the importance of family and spending time together. Our house was the house that hosted all family gatherings during the holidays and it was always full. This took lots of planning and TIME! We all cherish the memories we have of the holidays.
My wish for you and yours this holiday season is for you to find the best gift that you can give anyone, it has no price tag. The gift of TIME means so much, to so many. So make some time, to make a difference! It will change not only their life for the better, but also your own. Merry Christmas and a Very Happy and Healthy New Year!