I have been spending my mornings with a woman who blows my mind in her joy.
The first time I met Mim, we realized the deep connection we both have with birds. She has birds on her bed sheets, on her pillows, on her walls, at her bird feeder, and very obviously in her heart.
I told her of my Great Horned Owl neighbors. I showed her a picture of the mama with her babies and she asked over and over to see that picture. “Her eyes! She is looking right at me!” ” Her feathers are the same color of the bark!”
Then she said to me, “I’ve never seen an owl before…. I’d like to see one before I die… Can you take me to meet them for my birthday?”. So, we did. She was all bundled up in a wheelchair for her outing to celebrate her 86th birthday, gratitude emanating from her very being. We picked her daughter up and headed over.
Dad owl cracked an eye open and stared at my new friend. He stretched as the sun neared the mountains, and hooted in Mim’s direction. Mom was bundled up in her nest, keeping her newborn baby warm. Dad stretched as Mim ignored the cold and stared back at him. He spread his wings and puffed his feathers, and Mim got her birthday wish.
She asks about the owls every time I come to visit. I let her know how the baby is doing, where dad has been sitting, and what mom had for dinner last night.
We read poetry together- I offer Robert Service, (Listen to the wild, it’s calling you!) and she shares Grace Noll Crowell’s knowing that each day will bring some lovely thing.
We sing her favorite hymn, “for the beauty of the earth… For the splendor of the sky””… It must be SPLENDOR, she tells me. It’s such a perfect word. Today she tells me that on her headstone, she wants to have this quote:
“She never made it to Target, but she saw the splendor of the the clouds at sunset”
…And we laughed and laughed.
She is not afraid to talk about death. She has instructed me very clearly that we must sing that hymn at her memorial service. I MUST use the word splendor! And, I will.
What is happening to me here? It’s love. It’s awe. It’s a feeling of immense gratitude.
This woman shares her stories freely. She tells me of living in Muskegon, Michigan, diving in the waters to gather old, gnarled knots of wood buried in the muck below. She tells me of her favorite cousin, who she played hide and go seek with well into her teens. She tries to swim across any body of water she comes into contact with, from the quarry on the farm in Wisconsin to rivers in Europe, sometimes needing a boat to follow to keep her safe.
She tells of camping with her four daughters and her husband, and I am there with her. I am diving into the muck hunting for gnarled knots of wood and listening to the birds, as we sit looking out of her window at the assisted living facility so far from the places these stories took place.
This woman has LIVED life. She has filled her life with joy and birds and lakes and card games and family. I am in awe. I want to soak in every story she will tell me. I see how I want to be at 86, passing my stories along so vividly that we are transported to times long ago…
This is what I love about caregiving. I am so honored to be there with Mim. I anxiously await my time with her, and I’d like to be there for her for the rest of her life. My life is enriched in the stories and birds and poems and hymns and hands of gin rummy.
I am honored to be of service. Gratitude fills me every single day.