This week I have had two separate incidents that have reminded me of the fragility and the gift of the mind. And the importance of gratitude.
I celebrated the passing of a friend this week. At sixty years old, Mary passed away in the late stages of what was an early onset of dementia. Her daughter eulogized her, stating that before the disease and throughout the disease her mother never lost touch with the essence of goodness that was innately a part of Mary’s personality. She told lovely stories of Mary’s love for her husband and children, her giving spirit. She painted a picture of her mother who, even at the height of her disease, continued to express care for her family, owning a disposition that to the end always showed love to those who most cared for her. Her daughter spoke of Mary’s instinct toward gratitude and how her gracious spirit, until the end, filled those around her.
I also had a conversation with someone I care about who is currently in a nursing home. Steve has advanced Parkinson’s disease and with the mixing of medicines and a personality that leans toward fear, has frequent episodes of paranoia. Our conversation was a vehicle to quell his fear by my naming for him the good in his life and helping him remember. Together we listed all for which he was grateful. We remembered his friends, his children and his family, memories of a once full life, his aides who care for him, an evening meal, a book he likes, his paintings, and the list went on…. As he acknowledged these places of gratitude, his fear subsided, replaced momentarily by peace and love. Steve allowedf those around him to lead him to a place of gratitude and fear slipped away.
These two and separate incidents have made me wonder how, in the midst of advanced chronic illness, people respond so differently to their world. Both have fragile and changing minds. Both have dispositions that create a space that responds to the world in a very different way. Both have essences that are rooted in love and loved ones. Mary was rooted in her goodness and responded in love, bringing others with her till the end. Steve was rooted in his fear and through the love of others can be led to a place of love. Both were brought to this place by gratitude. In Mary, her access to graciousness allowed her to exude her goodness and share her connection to gratitude till the end. In Steve, his fear can block his access to gratitude and by allowing others who care for him to guide him he can access and share this place of peace. Different and not really so very different, after all.
What, you might ask, does this have to do with a writing blog…an educator blog? As an educator, I believe that as I interact with children and adults (I work with both), I am interacting with the whole of the other. As I set up a community of learners, whether that community is a school, a classroom community, a writing community or a one day workshop, I want to set up a space where all in the community can learn and grow. I don’t just want to impart knowledge, although that is an important aspect of what I do—and I relish that part of my work. I want to create community where learning occurs and the whole of the people in the community thrive. Recognition and celebration of difference supports this community. The Mary’s of a community bring their gift to the community. And the Steve’s do as well. And somehow in the midst of this make-up of people brought together, gratitude is a foundation. For some in the community gratitude comes easily. For others, with guidance and support, gratitude becomes realized. I wonder, as a leader and educator, how I can create a learning climate for others, through writing, through conversation, through acts of kindness, through example, where gratitude is known and each in the community grows because of it.
Today I am grateful for Mary and for Steve—both who showed me this week the importance of gratitude. Who showed me the fragility of one’s mind and the ability of one’s spirit. Who showed me the importance of others on a journey that leads to love and is fortified by gratitude.
What and who are you grateful for today?