Advent devotion: Caregivers
Advent is the celebration of Christ become human, His birth heralded by angels. I have witnessed the presence of Christ and of angels through hundreds of days recently spent with my beloved partner in his residence, the Alzheimer’s unit of a local nursing home. Let me share excerpts from notes that I gratefully sent to those CNAs who so selflessly, compassionately and without adequate compensation, provided care to my partner:
“Some call upon their better angels or speak of angels among us. In that spirit, thank you for gracing [my partner’s] life, and the lives of his family and other loved ones … Thank you for all of your caregiving skills and your professionalism, for all of your mindful yet patient assistance in insuring that [my partner] was properly and timely toileted, transferred, cleaned, showered, appropriately dressed, catheterized correctly and comfortably, nourished, bibbed, hydrated, exercised as tolerated, prepared properly for bed, awakened appropriately, and so many, many other tasks involved in his proper physical care. And thank you for the wondrous intangibles – your careful maintenance of his dignity and respect, your sense and appreciation of his essential personhood, your hugs and smiles and laughter, the quiet talks and music in preparing him for sleep, sharing his joy on so many occasions when family and friends visited, your gentle persuasion in getting him to release his firm grip on your hand that he was always so eager to grab and to hold onto, your careful and compassionate listening to his words and observing his mannerisms even if their true meanings were difficult to interpret, and your tears when appropriate. You brought such joy to his heart, you lifted up his spirit, your presence calmed and quieted him, you brought such wondrous peace to his soul and to the souls of those who love him. And, amazingly, you shared these gifts not only with [my partner], but with all … residents. Your compassionate, empathetic caring and joy-filled presence lifted everyone, always … We wish you every blessing and every joy and every good thing as you move forward in your life.”
My partner died in July. Although his death dimmed many lights, the bright lights of enduring friendships with, and the enormous respect and admiration for, his excellent caregivers, continue to strengthen me in so many sustaining ways. Yes, there remain angels among us, and yes, I witnessed Christ’s presence in every hallway and room of the Alzheimer’s/dementia unit in the form of excellent CNAs, nurses and other staff, all Good Samaritans who neighbored to some of the most vulnerable in our society through their outpourings of love, kindness and care.
Howard Thomas is retired and lives in Davenport. His greatest joys are family and friends. He also enjoys walking, gardening and reading.