Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
I called my dad today. He is in a nursing home and dealing with dementia. In his four years of living there I’ve seen changes in his demeanor, physical capabilities, and memory.
Today he told me he is working on getting “up and walking” so he can leave the facility. Sadly, I know he’s not leaving that place. His body cannot mend anymore, and his mind is slipping away.
One year. We never know on New Year’s Day what our reality will be like by the next January 1. In some ways we may want nothing to change, or perhaps we hope with all our heart everything will look and feel different in twelve months. How has 2014 been for you so far?
Among several people who play significant roles in my life, the past ten months have included heart-wrenching events. These include physical deaths, the loss of a child by miscarriage, disbanded loyalties, and an attempted suicide. I too have experienced painful severing of key relationships this year.
Goodbyes might be slow, tragic, sudden, or inexplicable. In the case of an adult child watching their parent slip away, a vulnerability arises. My longing for a dad who will take care of me is not realistic. There is no more hope for that. Today he forgot I was on the phone and stopped talking to me. Last week, my dad didn’t remember I moved eight hours away a few years ago. I don’t want him to wonder why I don’t come around each day.
Anything the past holds between us has faded into the cloud of compassion I feel for him now. What is positive is that dementia has softened him somewhat. When he heard I’m writing he said, “Good. That’s what you should be doing. You’re good at that.”
My choice is to spend time wishing I’d seen that side of him earlier, or to thank God for the gift. I choose the latter. There is simply no more time for counting a closet full of dead bones.
Saying goodbye. At the new year, I was one who hoped change would occur in 2014. I suspected there might be a critical parting or two. What has surprised me is that finally saying goodbye to old hurts and resentments has been such a joyful experience. “Let it go” now makes sense. It means today matters, and I can embrace this moment.
I’m saying goodbye to my dad. Today he’s still here, he is proud of me, and I’m glad. That’s all that counts anymore.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.