It was my mom’s birthday this week. I have been thinking about her more than usual.The following story came to mind.
Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease while she was still working as a nurse. The illness never took the upper hand until after my father died. The final years of her life were spent in a nursing home.
My brothers and I would visit on a regular basis and we would coordinate so as not to be visiting at the same time; ie, maximizing the number of contact days. We were still working and lived between 40 minutes and 2 hours away. This meant that there were days when neither of us were in for a visit.
A former student of mine was attending the university in the city, and she had kept in touch since graduating from high school. Because of her nature, she was the ideal candidate for what I had in mind. I contacted her and asked if she might be willing to visit my mother twice a week. I would pay her for her time.
Lisa explained that she would be happy to do so; however, she was soon to leave for another university. She told me that her younger sister was also in the city attending university and that she would probably be up for the task. I knew her sister, having taught her, and I had to agree, she would be an ideal person for the job. I contacted her.
Angela was very willing to visit my mother twice a week. She assured me that there was no need to pay her but I insisted. I knew that she could use the money and that if she later grew tired of the task that, perhaps, the financial aspect might keep her motivated. We agreed on a visitation schedule. The next day I told my mother that a former student was in the area and had offered to drop by for a visit. I didn’t tell Mom that Angela was being paid for her time.
The arrangement worked out splendidly. Angela visited regularly and Mom was enjoying her visits. Once a month I would mail a cheque to Angela.
During one of my visits I noticed a bouquet of flowers on my mother’s dresser. I asked about them and Mom explained that Angela gave them to her. And thus a pattern developed. I would mail Angela a cheque and gifts would later arrive for my mother.
On another occasion I stopped by to see my mom. It was earlier than usual. When I entered her room a voice from the bathroom said that they would be out in a minute. I assumed one of the staff had taken her in to use the washroom. When the door opened it was Angela who escorted my mother out. The fact that she would take the initiative and offer this care to my mother really impressed me. Realizing that this was not one of her usual visitation days I later asked if her schedule had changed. She said, “No, I just felt like dropping in.” I was quite moved by this.
A year later, Angela graduated and moved away to start her career. My mother really missed her
Mom died a few years later. On the day of her funeral, as I was chatting with friends in front of the church, I saw Angela and her father making their way to the building. Earlier that day he had driven from his home to hers. Together they made the 2+ hour drive to attend the funeral.
There were many things that day that brought me to tears. This was one of them.
As teachers we know that we can have a profound and significant impact on the lives of our students. Well, the opposite is certainly true.
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