When a friend, a neighbor or an employee was in the hospital, at home recuperating, or suffering a loss, my parents did not send flowers. If it was at all possible, they personally delivered the flowers or the plate of cookies or the casserole. They believed that being present was the best present.
This post is a gift of words to you from my parents…before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia. My dad is gone now, and my mother is very confused about where she is and what is going on, but I’m going to share with you some of the quotes they would have used to nudge a smile or encouragement.
My dad thought Will Rogers’ words were both wise and humorous. This is an example of one of Dad’s favorites: “Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” And this was Will Rogers’ reminder to wait and see how things work out: “We must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.”
It’s difficult to explain, but when my dad began a visit with a light or humorous comment, he and the other person would laugh and shake their heads, agreeing it was right, and then Dad would pull up a chair, sit down, and they would have a genuine, relaxed talk.
In my mother’s case, as she put the flowers on the table, or set down the food next to the person, she’d convey the many best wishes from others. If she had a specific connection to the person—for instance, if they were in the same writing club—and the person was discouraged about being too ill or unable to write, etc., Mom would share something she’d read. This is one of my favorites: “You know, I read something by Jack London that made me laugh.‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’” Then she’d pat the person’s hand and offer to help her find a club when the time was right.
Coach Lou Holtz summarized it best when he said, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” This Christmas, on behalf of my parents, I encourage you to sing your own song, and then be there for someone else and share it, loud and clear.