A Lesson from the White-Haired Couple at the Gym

This morning, I ended up with some unexpected time to walk the track at my local gym. This image was what I had the privilege of witnessing. A man and a woman caring deeply for one another. I walked for a long time. And so did they.

They gently held one another’s hand as they circled around and around the track. At one point, the husband had to let go of his wife’s hand to shed his sweatshirt since he had started to heat up a bit. And you know what he did once he put down his sweatshirt?

He reached right back out and held her hand again.

I’ll admit, my eyes filled with tears multiple times as I wondered about their journey together. Neither appeared as strong or as upright as I imagine they once were. I could see that their hands were gripping one another’s, but likely not as firmly as they once had because of their now tight and achy joints. Their pace was likely not as fast as it once was. Their gait was likely not as fluid. They leaned into one another to share thoughts as it seemed that their hearing also was not what it once was.

It was BEAUTIFUL, people.

At one point, I walked beside the couple and shared that I was blessed by observing their interactions with one another. They both smiled and the wife said, “We hold one another up to keep from falling. We exchanged a few more words and I affirmed that their kindness and gentleness toward one another was inspiring.

Then, I walked away and my eyes began to fill again.

Maybe she had just shared with me her key to a strong partnership. Maybe she had just spoken truth about how we are to act toward one another.

Their message will stay with me.

The message from our brief verbal exchange, but even more so, the message from witnessing their gentle, protective, loving, compassion for one another.

“We hold one another up to keep from falling”.

Beauty.

True Beauty.

I am so grateful my eyes were open to see this beauty displayed right in front of me today.

May my eyes and ears remain open…looking…listening.

And may we heed the wisdom from this lovely lady and all find ways to hold one another up to keep from falling.

 

When Your Mind and Your Body are Failing You

I know it’s hard and you may resist believing me, but there’s something really important I want to tell you…

I know your physical strength is waning. I know you don’t like needing help to lift and move things that, at one time, would have been a breeze. I know you feel weak and fragile. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember playing ball in the driveway and wrestling in the living room. I will remember the piggy back rides and I will remember your strength that always protected me.  And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know you walk more slowly than you used to and you just can’t get your legs to go any faster. I know you are concerned that you are making us late for wherever it is we are going. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember how we’d play chase and run through the fields together. I’ll remember when I was the one that couldn’t keep up with you. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know that you struggle to tie your shoes. It’s hard to grip the laces and you grow tired during the process. I know it frustrates you that your fingers don’t work the way you want them to. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember it was you that sat patiently with me as I learned to tie mine. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know you can’t hear as well and you have to ask me to repeat myself several times. I know you feel embarrassed when you just can’t understand what others are saying to you. But know THIS is true…

I’ll remember when you would sit and listen to me tell you stories. I’ll remember how your ears were always open and ready to hear my heart. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know that your vision is no longer what it used to be. I know you struggle to see the pages and ask me to read the words to you. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember how we would cuddle up on the couch and you would read my favorite stories to me. I will remember how you taught me to see the details of my surroundings as we would drive the countryside together. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know that you wish I didn’t have to feed you, wash your face, and comb your hair. I know that it’s uncomfortable to let me care for these basic needs. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember the times that you took care of me. The times you fed me, bandaged me, and cared for me when I was sick. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know you are scared and you startle at the slightest noises. I know that you feel embarrassed when you don’t recognize your surroundings. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember how you would calm me when I was the one who was frightened. How you would make me feel safe when I was the one who was scared. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know that you cry more than you’d like and you worry that you are burdening those around you. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember the many times you wiped away my tears and helped mend my broken heart. I will remember all of the burdens you carried for me. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know there are times you struggle to say my name. I know that you wish you could find a way to make your mouth say what you are thinking. But please, know THIS is true…

I will remember the many times you said my name with the deepest joy and the biggest smile. I will remember how proudly you would speak of me every chance you’d get. And with THESE memories, I will honor you.

I know that you think you are less than you used to be. You believe that because your body and mind do not function the way they did when you were young, you are less valuable or less lovable.

But know THIS is true…

Your value and your worth go deeper than what your mind and what your body can do. Your value and your worth are steady and never-changing. God declared that long ago.

AND WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE, I WILL HONOR YOU.

 

 

**This piece was written in honor of my father, Jerry V. Saylor, who lived his last years on earth struggling through the physical and cognitive effects associated with Lewy Body Dementia. He lived and loved well from 6/14/1947 – 8/19/2016. I also write this in honor of the many others who struggle to believe that their value and worth are never-changing in spite of the reality that their mind and body are.

 

Stop Believing that Grief Doesn’t Change You

I have experienced deep loss. I have mourned alongside friends, family and clients who have also experienced deep loss.

Through the journey, I have heard these words repeatedly…

“I just feel like I am so different than I was before my loss.”

I have heard these words pour from the mouths of friends, and I have heard these words pour from my own mouth.

For those of you that have walked your own grief journey, you know that these words can often be laced with shame and the idea that we need to get back to the person we were before our world was shaken.

No one should be expected to rise up out of the ashes looking the same as they did before the fire.

And yet, we often place that expectation on ourselves.

When we struggle to accept that grief changes us, we can often go into emotional or physical hiding, believing that the changes are unacceptable to us and assuming they will be unacceptable to others. We may believe that our people will not love us with our bumps and bruises or that they will grow weary of our tears.

Buying into these beliefs typically lead to emotional numbing, hopelessness, deep depression, or prolonged isolation from others.

I remember many years ago, following the loss of my daughter, I began to hesitantly express to friends that I felt like a different person since her death. I was scared to tell them…maybe I assumed they’d agree and point out all of the flawed ways I had in fact changed.

Of course, they didn’t.

The reality is…my people are good. They are loving. They saw my heart. They saw my pain. And they knew that I was rising up out of the ashes. They actually didn’t expect me to be the same as before her death.

They told me that I was okay…

needing more alone time.

being less productive.

needing more sleep.

crying at random times.

excusing myself from overwhelming conversations and situations.

feeling things that they didn’t understand.

They helped give me permission to accept that grief was messy and that this was okay. They helped me believe that finding my “new normal” didn’t need to be a smooth process. They helped me trust that I didn’t need to hide the scars of my loss.

And the more I believed this, the more grace I extended to myself as I continued to walk the journey. The more I accepted the grace available along the journey, the more I could find the strength to keep leaning into the healing offered and the more I could trust that something good and acceptable could emerge from the ashes.

If you are the mourner and you have yet to take the risk of sharing with your people the ways loss is changing you, I encourage you to consider that your people might want to know you, bumps, bruises, scars and all.

When we let our people see us, we allow our people to love us.