It doesn’t matter what age we are, there is always so much learning available to us. I remember when I was young I thought I knew everything and now I realise more and more just how much I don’t know. My experience in the past nine months has been a huge awakening for me and I feel myself heading in a new direction.
In May last year I was given the responsibility for the care of my ex husband’s wife. I needed to rescue her from a dangerous situation. She reached out to me and I reluctantly took up the challenge. It has been a much bigger responsibility than I had previously thought and it is only now that I am realising how much I have learnt from being thrown into a situation I hadn’t expected. I wondered how I could possibly manage any more than I was doing and thought I would just find a suitable place for her.
Of course it didn’t work out like that and I found myself becoming more and more immersed in the world of aged care. I felt the responsibility of being the only person who could help her. Putting myself in her place I could really feel how terrible it would be to be alone at this vulnerable time of your life. I made a contract with myself to do the best I could for her for the rest of her life – for however long that might be.
There were times when I regretted my contract, especially when she went through a period of delirium, exacerbating her vascular dementia which had been hovering for some time. For a period of time she became angry and very difficult to be around. One day, in the midst of this period, I called in to see her and she looked at me and asked why I was doing this as she had never done anything for me. I looked back at this woman whose values were so different from mine and who, over the years I hadn’t even particularly liked, and at that moment it was as if I could see right into her soul. I was able to sincerely answer that it was because I loved her. This was the moment that I really understood that you don’t really have to like someone to be able to love them and from that moment on I felt my love for her grow stronger.
I had to move her several times and had finally found a place for her close to my home and was really looking forward to being able to set her up in a more convenient, comfortable environment. I was on my way to set up her room ready for her to move the next day when my phone rang and the emergency department of Greenslopes Hospital called and told me I should get there as quickly as possible.
I found her struggling for breath and was told that she had little time left. I resolved to stay with her. I have always felt that no one deserves to die alone. I stayed with her all that night and the next day and there was no change. I needed to go home to sleep but was concerned that she would die without any one being with her. The man in the next room had passed the night before and I was touched by the fact that his large family was all around him.
The second day she opened her eyes and seemed very alert. She tried to communicate and I told her that it was okay for her to let go, her time of suffering was over. She nodded and spent the next few days very much at peace but with eyes wide open, very much alert. My daughter relieved me and recounted that it had been a special experience to spend time with someone so close to death. I slept at my grandson’s home so I wasn’t far away. It was hard to say how long this might go on but on Sunday morning I went in and knew that the time was very close. I kissed her and told her she could go when she was ready and a half hour later she slipped peacefully away. I felt that it was a real privilege to have shared this time with her.
So how has this changed my focus? It is quite a subtle change. I have always had a passion for helping people be their best selves, firstly in the education setting and later in the corporate scene, but all of a sudden I knew that I wanted to focus more on individuals rather than in the corporate scene. I am not sure how this is going to play out yet, but I know that it is the right decision. It is so important that I spend this last period of my life using my experience, wisdom and time in serving in a way that is the most effective. It is very exciting.
I will continue working with the karaoke program and in May I will go to New York to participate in Dr Brian Weiss’s work shop. I am sure it will solidify the areas I will be focusing on for the rest of my life. I am particularly excited that I have been asked to speak to a special group in Maryland while I am over there. I have a strong feeling that this also will lead me in a new direction.
I will be changing my website to reflect my change in focus. Only love is real!