This year's theme for National Skilled Nursing Care Week is "Celebrating Life's Stories." I especially love the theme this year and find that celebrating everyone's unique self is very relevant to our time. As I have said in past blogs, I love hearing about our resident's life stories... their experiences & life events that have shaped them into their being.
I remember a resident from a few years ago, who was on our 1:1 program. Like so many others, it was devastating for her to have to move out of her home in Columbia Heights. She had made so many memories in the 50+ years she had lived there... It took her awhile to adjust and trust her new surroundings in a nursing home. Having the 1:1 personal visits brightened her mood and she began to thrive again.
Her children did such an amazing job of styling her room to replicate her living room in Columbia Heights. When she invited you in for a visit, it felt like you had traveled back in time. She often spoke of her life stories...especially the memories of her husband who had passed years back and the 4 children they had together. It was evident that there was so much love within that family.
Her husband had built this home for them with his own hands. He wanted, as much as she did, to provide their growing family with a stable home. She couldn't seem to find the words to adequately express the gratitude she felt from his hard work. Her tears would build up in her eyes as she spoke of the sacrifices they made to give their children the best life possible. Her favorite saying was "I love you... too much!"
After several visits and stories, she finally opened up about her own childhood. That's when it all "clicked" and made sense to me. I finally felt as though I really understood her.
This resident had been born to a young & single mother in rural North Dakota... in a time and place where single mothers were shamed. Without the support of her parents, the responsibilities of a baby for this young mother were too difficult. She left her newborn with family and moved on to another life out West....and never came back.
This resident painted her memories of her childhood as feeling excluded and unappreciated. She never knew why her father & mother didn't express the same feelings towards her as they did with her "siblings." All this little girl wanted was to be loved.
She didn't learn until young adulthood that her parents were actually her aunt & uncle....a family secret that had been kept from her for years. It finally "clicked" with her as to why she never felt like she belonged. She wanted to meet her real mother, a feeling that was not reciprocated. Her real mother had started a new life, thousands of miles away. She had married and started her own family, and had no interest in reliving a painful chapter from her past.
When this resident spoke of her real mother, she spoke with sympathy, empathy...and forgiveness. It amazed me that this warm, kind, strong & loving woman had endured such sadness & pain as a young girl. She said it took a long time for her to know what it felt like to be truly loved. She felt it first from her husband and then from her children.
What she learned from her childhood experiences is that every child should feel loved. When she had the privilege to become a mother, she knew that it was her responsibility to provide her children with dedicated parents, a stable home and to be told "I love you" as often as possible. She did everything she could to make their childhood better than the one she had....and she did.
She was loved....too much.