Angels Among Us

August 30, 2012

For many of us, and there are a lot of us, who have needed help caring for the elders in our lives, we long to meet that special person who will support us with empathy and genuine affection for our senior.

I have been very fortunate to have met two. One was a wonderful woman with infinite compassion and gentle invisible support who eased our heaviness during the difficult months before the passing of my mother. This woman, a fairly recent immigrant to Canada, intuitively knew how to comfort and make the elderly feel secure. She never looked for acknowledgement from us , but found her greatest joy when my mother was well cared for and placid. Her heart and her care were so sincere and so well meaning but done so quietly that it almost just became the the silent norm.

Where do people get this capacity for empathy? It is certainly not motivated by high wages as often these care givers make only minimum wage or a bit more. It is the product of an unselfish person, a genuinely good person who, at the end of the day, feels an ease with often difficult and unsavoury tasks if they lead to easing the suffering of others. I believed that she genuinely loved my mother and I know that my mother felt so too. I am eternally grateful to her.

The other angel I have had the privilege of knowing in my life is a sister of my heart, a phenomenal woman who chose to be a social worker and to work at a centre for the elderly. Nobody does it better! She constantly studied and read…she wanted to be the best that she could be. She knows each senior by name, takes time to talk with them daily. Helps them talk through their deepest fears and problems. Helps them plan their funerals and those of their spouses. And, as many gently slipped into that grey world of nothingness, she would read to them, remind them of past memories and allay their agitation. Each day she makes a difference in so many lives and she does it with such enthusiasm and selflessness. It is truly inspirational.

Some of you, I am sure, can relate to these personal ramblings and others cringe at the mere mention of angels. But whatever we call these special elder caregivers, they live well and live with passion and compassion. For so many frail and frightened seniors, as the American poet Robert Frost wrote in his poem "The Road Less Travelled", they have chosen the road less travelled, and that has made all the difference.


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