Over the past few weeks, I have said goodbye to many friends and family, and I share this story in honor of each of them and those who gave tirelessly to care for each of them as they prepared for their final steps. Perhaps it will give us all something to carry throughout the coming year – to always remember that we are here to love one another.
As Pearl looked into the eyes of her father, Grandpa Bill looked back with a stare that was almost empty.
There was nothing more scary, more disheartening than looking into those deep blue eyes that had given so much throughout life, such caring, such love and on occasion a stern glance that made you know you were on very thin ice.
But now as he looked upon you there were moments that he did not know who you were.
Pearl longed for a chance once again to hear his gentle voice speak her name for no other reason except to be sure that he knew her.
Fear overcame her worrying that such a moment might not come again or perhaps his thoughts might land in a place of anger and frustration making him want to strike out at her and those who love him so much.
The family had seen the cycle again and again as the older generation slowly yielded its control to the next, albeit sometimes kicking and screaming along the way.
But that is only appropriate not to go quietly into that good night.
In the valley below the Gravelly Spur Mountain there is no such thing as a nursing home or assisted living. You found your assistance at home among your family and friends.
No matter your age or disability there was always some series of chores you could perform to keep a daily routine until you body rebelled and no longer allowed you to do them.
Then if your hands remained active, a chore that required only slight movement might be shared, peeling potatoes, breaking green beans, sewing on buttons.
But Grandpa Bill had reached the point that those days were behind him and he was giving comfort only in the brief moments of clarity as they came and went within him.
Pearl wondered what she might do to make the situation better, alas there was little she could do except be there leaning back in the woven seat oak chair holding his hand as it lay upon the blue and white cotton patchwork quilt. She tried to make each day as close to what he wanted as possible.
There was no doubt of the love shared between the father and daughter and yet that did not ease the fearful moments when the ravages of time seemed to wipe it clean like the swipe of an eraser across a school blackboard removing the chalk so no one could see it.
But she found her solace waiting for that next moment when the writing once again appeared on Grandpa Bill’s class slate perhaps not in all its detail but enough to hold on to. Enough to sustain until there was no more.
It makes one wonder where love goes when the board is wiped clean.
Perhaps that is the purpose of family caring for family. The well of love pours out throughout the lives of those contributing filling the hearts of those around them. When the well begins to dry up does that mean that the love is gone? Of course not, the love still remains within all those who have shared in it throughout that person’s life.
As the level of one’s well begins to diminish it is simply the job of all of those who have drank from that well to now bring some of that love back to that person.
Just because they may not be able to drink it in fully does not make the gift any less valued.
From the book “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes“