Gratitude 101 – Question 1

Gratitude 101 – Question 1

Carol A. Hand

“… today, on reflection, why am I most grateful for having a functioning brain?” (Skywalker Payne, January 7, 2015)

I will soon be eight years older than my mother was when her dementia became apparent. It was the year I moved back to Wisconsin, and before I went back to the university to complete my BA and MSSW with a focus on gerontology, policy, and administration. It was after my decision to return to complete my degrees because of what I had witnessed as a nurse’s aide, attendant, and home health aide caring for people whose cognitive and self-care abilities were affected by birth, abuse, institutional placement, accidents, or illness.

My mother’s forgetfulness, tendency to repeat herself, and inability to find words were all new behaviors. These changes followed a routine medical exam that stopped her heart due to an allergic reaction to the dye injected to examine her kidneys. Yet my father was there to help her remember, to complete her sentences, and to remind her of the necessary daily chores. The extent of her cognitive losses didn’t become apparent until after my father’s death fourteen years later. I did my best as her legal guardian to help construct supportive environments over the last sixteen years of her life as the cause of her dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, slowly eroded her memories and abilities for self-care.

Because of my experiences with my mother and those I have worked with over the years, I don’t take my ability to think clearly for granted. But I don’t often take the time to be grateful. I learned some preventive measures as a result of my mother’s experience. Vitamin E and Omega 3 with D3 are the only “medications” I take every day. I read, write, and fall asleep with cryptograms to keep my mind working. I exercise physically most days, and avoid Western medical practitioners as assiduously as possible. Most importantly, I try to remember to take time throughout the day to breathe in peace, love, light and joy.

I am grateful for my ability to think, reason, process, and question. Yet, to be honest, my critical thinking ability has been both a gift and a challenge in my life. It’s not something I could really share with my mother. Her strengths were empathy and compassion. It was my father’s influence that forced me to develop analytical skills in order to survive. These very skills, however, often placed me on the margins. I find it amusing that there are now treatments to help people become “smarter.” But what is the value of intelligence without compassion? Intelligence, like the many other wondrous abilities our brains bestow, is quite meaningless without the recognition that it is our responsibility to use these gifts to help others.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Skywalker Payne for inspiring this reflection.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
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10 Responses to Gratitude 101 – Question 1

  1. I’m glad the question inspired this blog. And I’m really grateful for the Sweet Honey song. I did tell you that I actually was able to be in an amateur group Bernice put together for a performance? Hearing them makes years disappear and I’m back a young idealistic, trusting twenty something in Washington, DC. So, again, I’m grateful for you and to you Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nicciattfield says:

    We rely so much on how we think, and what that means. Your mother always sounds so kind and lovely. It must have been hard to see her struggle throughout her life in different ways. But the lovely point, that kindness and thought can combine to bring new thoughts or ideas into the world, that is something to be grateful for.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. larryjben says:

    Thank you for the moving story. As one who is just beginning to see the onset of mental difficulties in my wife of 55 years this means much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kinds words. I am so sorry to hear about your wife, Larry.

      One of the first things I had to sort through for my mother were the many other possible contributors to my mother’s confusion. Some are more common – Was it due to malnutrition (her refrigerator was filled only with fried chicken from the local store, with varying expiration dates that were way passed)? Interactions of any prescribed medications and over-the counter remedies, taking too many or not enough (her medicine cabinet was filled with many and as a nurse, she could easily decide this would make her feel better)? Was it due to depression because of my father’s death or her loneliness? After eliminating these possibilities, she was diagnosed at the Mao Clinic to see if her condition was treatable. The best we were able to do at the time for Alzheimer’s was a new drug that slowed the progression of her decline.

      I don’t know if any of this will be helpful to you, but I send you my best wishes and healing thoughts for your wife.

      Like

  4. Pat says:

    Carol, thank you for this post, particularly for your astute questioning the purpose of intelligence in the absence of compassion. Also thanks for Sweet Honey. It has been a while since I listened and I had forgotten what a balm they bless us with.
    ~pat

    Liked by 1 person

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