Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dignity and Beauty

This past week I took my mom to see a new doctor.  As we entered the office, we heard unusual sounds coming from the waiting room.  An elderly woman in a wheelchair was making, for want of a better description, animal sounds - growling, yelping, screeching.  As unnerved as my mom was, she took my arm and went on in to be seated and wait for her appointment.  It was clear that the woman in the waiting room was a stroke victim.  As the next few minutes went by, I gained an appreciation for the power of love and devotion in action.

There were two other women with her - a relative and a caregiver.  They were engaging her in conversation, checking with her to make sure they were correctly interpreting her sounds.  The caregiver was carefully feeding her bits of soft banana (she had no teeth) and cleaning her mouth as she finished chewing each bite.  She would say, "That's good, isn't it?"  and "I'm glad you like this banana."  In many ways, it was reminiscent of a mother with a child - articulating and interpreting an experience for someone who was non-verbal.  After a bit, the old lady waved at my mom and "spoke" to her as well, and mom, always a people person, greeted her with a "good morning!" 

I had time to observe these ladies closely in the few minutes we had together in that waiting room.  The caregiver and the relative had taken time to prepare her for this appointment.  She was in clean clothes, and her grey hair had been pulled back and a tidy hair-piece (bun) placed on top.  She didn't have much hair anymore, but I guessed that they had tried to arrange it in the way she used to wear it.  She had real shoes on - not slippers.  Most impressive to me, though, was her confidence.  Even though she couldn't talk anymore, she was still mentally active and wanted to be engaged with those around her.  More outstanding than that, though, was the dignity that she had, even as an incapacitated person.  The careful attention to the details of her care helped convey that.

 A quick glance through that waiting room that morning would not have revealed anything particularly outstanding, but witnessing the love and care extended to this old woman was like witnessing an unexpected rainbow - delightful and beautiful.  She will be in my mind for a long time.

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