Untitled by Khem

There was a son, who planned to abandon his father in the forest.  Constantly sick brought about by old age and with no known cure, the son was tired and weary of taking care of his father.

He carried his father over his shoulders and reached the darkest corner of the forest.  While on his shoulders, he noticed that his father was breaking each tree branch that they passed by.

The son asked his father what he was doing.  Then the father replied, “I don’t want you to get lost on your way back home.”

 

Constance, The Gardener by 4get-me-not.org

Meet Constance, a 48-year old Filipino caregiver of 86-year old Arab national whom she fondly calls “Mama.”  Constance has been a full time and stay in caretaker for Mama for almost ten years now at the Center.  How she managed patiently all these years, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and other disability is extraordinary feat for someone without formal training on care giving.

I’m the only one whom Mama can recognize,” she sighs.  “Nobody can feed, bathe and administer her medicines except me.”    One time, Mama woke up suddenly from her afternoon nap and felt that Constance was not around.  Coincidentally, it was Constance’s half day off and she was at the nearby supermarket buying their toiletries supply.  “Mama cried and was inconsolable until I came back a few minutes later.”  News reached the family and her monthly half day off was minimized further to 1 hour per month.

Year 2015 will be the end of her employment.  She may not renew her contract anymore and contemplates on accepting a job offer at the Center as all-around attendant. “It will be additional 500 dirhams income to my current salary of 1,200 dirhams which is most often delayedBut if I get accepted, I would request to be assigned at Mama’s quarters so that I can still see her.”

As Constance waits for Mama’s lunch to be served, she peeks at the backyard and carefully sprinkles water at her Onion and Potato plants.  It’s amazing how she can make vegetables grow and survive in the desert weather.

In the caring hands of Constance, the plants thrive.  And Mama lives happily.

Alzheimer Patient’s Prayer by Carolyn Haynali

Pray for me, I was once like you.
Be kind and loving to me,
That’s how I would have treated you.
Remember I was once someone’s parent or spouse, I had a life and a dream for the future.
Speak to me, I can hear you even if I don’t understand what you are saying
Speak to me of things in my past of which I can still relate.
Be considerate of me, my days are such a struggle.
Think of my feelings because I still have them and can feel pain.
Treat me with respect because I would have treated you that way.
Think of how I was before I got Alzheimer’s; I was full of life, I had a life, laughed and loved you.
Think of how I am now, my disease distorts my thinking, my feelings, and my ability to respond, but I still love you even if I can’t tell you.
Think about my future because I used too.
Remember I was full of hope for the future just like you are now.
Think how it would be to have things locked in your mind and can’t let them out.
I need you to understand and not blame me, but Alzheimer’s.
I still need the compassion and the touching and most of all I still need you to love me.
Keep me in your prayers because I am between life and death.
The love you give will be a blessing from God and both of us will live forever.
How you live & what you do today will always be remembered in the heart of the Alzheimer’s patient.

Ready to Die by Barbara C. Gonzales

Two dates we have absolutely no control over: our birthday and  our dying day. Those two dates test our belief in God. We have no choice but to surrender, to just wait for it to come, and hope it   surprises us. At least that’s what I hope: that my death will  surprise me.

I have prepared my children for my death with apologies. Let me  apologize early, I’ve said. I live alone and will probably die alone. You will probably find me after a few days, maybe after my driver rings my doorbell and I don’t answer for many hours. Then he will call you. You will probably find me smelly and maggoty. I apologize. Just call somebody to pick me up and have me cremated immediately. Then stick me into the crypt. On the ninth day have a huge party. Play my songs. Serve my drinks. Celebrate my life. Drink a toast to its end. It had gotten boring for me. I paid two months’ lease on my apartment, meaning you have two months to get rid of the stuff you don’t like. After that, it’s all over. Go back to the rest of your lives and forget about me. In fact, you can do that the very next day after you find my corpse. Don’t mourn me. I’m sure I’ll be happy elsewhere.

But sometimes I have questions about death and wish I could talk to someone who has died. I have been at the deathbeds of two grandmothers. The first one when I was 22. When she passed on I saw her face and I thought she looked blissful. The second one was her younger sister, who was also one of my surrogate mothers when I was growing up. She took a longer time and she was moaning. Was she having a difficult time breathing? I wondered. Or were they little moans of pleasure? But I could not ask because both of them died and did not return.

The French have a phrase to describe the climax of sexual pleasure or “the big O.” They call it le petit mort or “a small death” in English. I have always wondered why. Could it have a relationship to the grand mort or “death” in English? These thoughts passed through my mind quietly as I sat by my grandaunt’s deathbed. By then I was already over 35. These thoughts or questions remained unanswered.

When I was 59, I had a stroke. I wished I had died but instead I lived staring blankly at walls and recovering very slowly. Fortunately for me, I had no discernable physical handicaps, but I was isolated from my emotions, my imagination, and my memories. Every morning when I woke up I knew it wasn’t time for me to die yet. I was done with taking care of my children. Now I had my mother and her Alzheimer’s. I had to be alive for that. I was an only child. Who else would take care of her?

Now, I am going on 67 and feeling terrific, but I also sense the closeness to death. At the hospital after my stroke, I slept most of the time. One noon I woke up and heard a male voice. It said, “Tweetums (my nickname so I knew he was talking to me), you will live to be 69.” I felt peaceful, the only word I could use then. Now, when I replay that moment, I want to correct that figure. I felt grateful. You see, my mother’s Alzheimer’s first manifested when she turned 70. I don’t want to live to be 70. I don’t want to  get Alzheimer’s disease, which can be genetic. I don’t want my children to experience the grief and the difficulty that taking care of her brought me.

Then recently I walked into a class I was attending and ran into Dolly Perez, a lady I met many, many years ago when I was in my 20s, but I can’t remember from where. They were talking and somebody mentioned that Dolly had had a heart attack and momentarily died. Here was the opportunity I had waited for a long time — to talk to someone who had died and find out, face to face, what that had felt like.

“May I ask?” I said. “What did it feel like to die?”

“It was wonderful,” she replied, looking straight at me. “Like a  thousand orgasms. I saw the white light. I had this wonderful feeling of peace.”

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“They revived me with that electric thing. Now I’m alive and sometimes I regret it.”

After that conversation, what can I say? I want to die. Really and truly. Why are most people so afraid to die? If that’s the way it feels then I will have to say it must be a wondrous experience, a gorgeous, knockout, really breathless passage from this boring life into a world elsewhere full of light and mystery. I am ready for that exquisite experience. Anytime, dear God, I am at your beck and call. I am waiting, smiling, giggling, laughing, ready. Come and take me or send for me any time at Your convenience.

(Ms. Barbara C. Gonzales wrote this article from her column “Second Wind” at the Philippine Star newspaper. She remains a highly-respected media personality, being the president of a major advertising company.  Illustration is courtesy by Igan D’Bayan)