If any of you have ever met my mother, Bettie, you would smile just remembering whatever time(s) you have spent together. She is fun, funny, smart, sweet – I could go on, but what I treasure most about my mom (and also my dad who has passed away) is the way she has lived her life and the example she has set for me and my siblings. She has many great attributes, my favorites among them being kindness, caring and generosity.
My parents were generous with their time as well as their dollars. My sister, brother and I would often go with my mom to the free medical clinic where she worked as a volunteer. We loved seeing the babies (even though we couldn’t play with them). Both of my parents were active in our church throughout their lives. They talked with us about tithing and the importance of giving and made sure we put our own coins in the offering plate. They welcomed any one of the many friends we would bring home with us…my mom still refers to these friends as “yard children” and loves them as much as they love her. It was always to surprise to see how many kids would show up for dinner! Both of my parents modeled what it was to give of what you had – not only money but time, attention, advice (whether asked for or not!), a place at the dinner table, a soft place to land. They taught us by example that this giving is as important to the one being given to as well as to the giver. We saw how they made people feel. And how it made us feel.
For the past few years, sweet Bettie has been showing signs of forgetfulness. The past year or so she has shone a rapid decline into what is now dementia, and she has had an especially hard time with the pandemic. Her doctor attributes much of it to the isolation so many of us are experiencing. Her assisted living community, like most, has had to follow very stringent guidelines regarding social interaction, among other things, in order to keep the residents as safe as possible during this unprecedented time.
There are times now when I do not recognize “my mom” when we talk or are able to visit in person. We are blessed because she is a cheerful senior citizen, and I know that is not always the case. Despite the occasional cloudy look in her eyes, her spirit does not change. Her kindness and caring do not change. The generosity she and my father taught us has not changed either, no matter where “she” is.
I have been doing her “books” as she calls it for many years now, and she asks me to “do the book work” so that everyone is taken care of. She has her favorite charities that she does not forget. She wants those who take care of her at her assisted living community to be taken care of, and she does not forget this either. She remembers to send Christmas checks to the nieces and nephews without any reminding. She remembers all of this, God bless her loving and generous heart, but sometimes she cannot remember the reason why we are in this self-isolation.
To take care of her “books,” to be asked 3 times in the same conversation if I watched the Braves game, to listen to the same stories she loves to tell about growing up here in Atlanta, to sit across from her and to really see HER sometimes…it’s all an honor and a blessing. And I want to honor her – and my father – by living my life the way they led theirs. That’s done by being kind, to care for others, and to be generous. There’s really no other way to be.