“This is the worst part of my life” she moaned. “Everything is in the past, nothing is in the future. Why didn’t I invest in life with more vigor more passion?”
She is in the twilight years of her life. Not much more to do than eat, sleep, and shuffle. Hearing aids augment sounds but many words slip by her ears without cognition. “What will I do with what remains of me?” she screams in a hoarse whisper.
“I could have been a writer, I could have been a nurse, instead I did nothing. What was it all for?”
Oh the doubts and fears that can eclipse the thoughts of the elderly. Too late to remedy their wishes but never too late to bemoan what was lost.
“Give me your hand dear Madeline” (for that is the name I will give you today). “Let us take a walk down the primrose path of your memories. Let’s smell the sweet scent of youth – yes you can remember those familiar scents of yesteryear though your olfactory system no longer cooperates today.”
“What will we see down that path? A handsome young man in uniform. An officer – just going to war. Hold out your arm, wave goodbye, give him the apple of your eye. When he returns, some things will never be the same.”
“There just look down that overgrown walk. Let’s take a moment and stop. ” A kind faced gentleman, his arm gracefully draped behind his withered wife, stands next to the ivy laden gate.They were her aunt and uncle. How proud was she to know such folks. She reflects –”they taught me so much during the Depression.”
Another lane, more clear to see, grown up children with babes running free. The meadow is open the sun is bright– these children represent Madeline’s years of light.
She starts to smile as she takes in the sun, the blue of the flowers, the sounds of children having fun. “There’s promise you see in a world that seemed small. You had a life –it was something after all.”
I have fictionalized this dialogue I had over and over with one of my in-home care patients. I loved the stories she could relay clearly of the past. So we would linger there: over her father’s Croix du guerre (from world war 1), old pictures of family, her husband’s extensive library…