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CARE

Provide care with honor on Mother's Day (and every day)

Each of us has someone they look up to and take inspiration from, someone who serves as an example of those qualities we hope to develop in ourselves.  

For me, that person is my mother. As Mother's Day approaches, I have been thinking a lot lately about what she has taught me.   

It's been nearly two years since she moved to be closer to me and my sister, who has generously been serving as her primary caregiver. It was a difficult decision to move her here, but her memory was failing so she needed to be in a place where we could be more involved in her day-to-day care.

When I think about my mom, the thing that stands out about her as a person is her love of life-long learning. She earned a degree in speech pathology at the University of Minnesota in the early 1940s when there weren't many women graduating from college. She moved to Wisconsin and commuted to the University of Chicago where she went to get more training.  

Her career included years in private practice as a speech pathologist. In her mid-60s, she decided to take up writing poetry, taking courses at the local extension of the University of Wisconsin. She joined a poetry group, participated in a number of poetry readings and published two books. 

Now, as her memory fades, I find that poetry provides a connection between us. When I visit with her, it's our pattern for me to spend most of the visit reading some of her favorite poems to her. 

When I read poetry to her, she is so much more engaged that it's like it was when she was in her prime. Her eyes brighten, and she seems moved by the beauty of the poem I'm reading. Often, she will make a comment about the poem or the poet that I'm surprised she knows. Even with her memory loss, what has persisted is her gratitude for being alive and her appreciation of beauty.  

For those of us who provide care to aging or ill parents or family, it is important that we remember they are more than their illness or age, and honor who they are and respect their past. Finding ways to keep our connection with our loved ones during this time—be it through poetry, pictures or an activity they love—makes our time together even more valuable.

There's a poem by Mary Oliver called "Summer Day" that I always read to my mother. The poem and I will end this message this way:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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