I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” _ Maya Angelou.
“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”_ Forrest Gump
If it’s true a person may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel, maybe, for the older adult whose memory is slipping, they need a memory jog. We can remind them that the once upon a time the love and care they had for us was indeed remembered, and can now be reciprocated. Some folks think it’s too late, but Forrest Gump’s mother reminded me this week that it is never too late for some healing to begin.
A pastor once remarked that, as he was sitting in the background at a funeral, listening to all the wonderful accolades about the deceased, a thought popped into his mind. He suddenly realized, three hours later, that the man in whom was being greatly honored, isn’t hearing a word of this! He later added:
“I wonder how many of us wait until our loved ones are gone before we think to tell them what they meant to us.”
What’s stopping us from writing the obituary, or rather memorial, now? Who says you have to wait until, you know….after? Doesn’t seem normal to you? I thought that too, but then, I’m inclined to agree with Forest Gump’s mother when she asked, “What’s normal anyways?”
As I was listening to that pastor regale the story, I realized that many older folks may have unresolved things in their past; an unspoken word, something they wish they had said or not said (heck, I feel that way now). For many, I wonder if there were words they wish they had said or might have longed to hear, and what’s left is the lingering feeling of something undone. Most people can relate to Forrest Gump’s thoughts concerning his lost friend, Bubba, when he narrated:
“If I’d a known that was the last time I was gonna talk to Bubba, I would of thought of something better to say.”
I got to thinking about my dad, who’s been talking about his parents lately, becoming sad as he remembers. The older person now “feels” these emotions as he or she delves back in time. Too often, they never had a chance to grieve properly, especially if they were the ones that cared for their parents before they died. They were strong for their families, as my father was. But now, those old emotions, good and bad, are coming back in living color. My words of frustration on a daily basis as I care for him can’t be much help either. Oh, the guilt! The best I could do was to tell him the things I remembered hearing them say about him. Then, I saw something in a book that gave me an idea.
In the book, “The Blessing” by Gary Smalley and John Trent, the authors say that we all long to be accepted, and receiving the blessing from our parents sets the standard for how we’re able to put things behind us, gain perspective, and live fulfilled lives. There are five basic parts to the Jewish blessings of old, the spoken word being one of them. When you speak their name and bless them, you acknowledge their importance to you. It’s never too late to impart blessing to our parents, even if their parents are deceased.
This week, while cruising the internet, I got a glimpse of the nineties movie, “Ten Things I Hate About You,” and an idea began to form. Since I’m not good at expressing how I feel verbally, I decided to do something. My dad saves cards sent to him and rereads them, so I sent him a card, changed the words of the movie title around, and enclosed a short note, “Ten things I love about you.” Here it is in its entirety:
10 things I love about you…
- You are the most generous person I have ever known. If you have money or time, you give it, never expecting any return
- You love to help people and do for them
- When you dress up, you are the most handsome person in the room
- You smell good (I think it is Old Spice)
- When I was a little girl, I always felt safe when you were around
- You have always been able to fix anything; you are creative and smart
- I love how you care for your animals
- You are funny; actually, you are the funniest person I know
- Even when I’m grumpy because of my own old age, I really do enjoy taking care of you. You took care of me, always making me feel special, and I want to do the same for you
- Remember the 60’s song, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”? If I could write a song about you, it would be, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my daddy”
No matter what happens to you in life, I would carry you up a hill, and it would not be a burden, because you are my Daddy.
I posted it on Facebook and it had a ripple effect, my grown kids writing “ten things” for me. Someday, I hope to find time to sit and write one for each of them, but it will take some time because there’s just so much to say.
So, this week, when you are at your most frustrated, sit down and write ten things you love about your loved one. It’s not only healing for them, but will be for you as well. And take a cue from Forrest, for as we all know, “There’s always something better to say”.
Clearview Regional Medical Center is hosting a Lunch and Learn on Dementia in the Aging Adult. This will take place at noon, Tuesday, May 19. You are invited to join to gather information concerning the development and onset of dementia.
Visit ClearviewRegionalMedicalCenter.com to find out if you can still register