Dear Friends, Drodzy Przyjaciele, Cari Amici,
One of the things that I do in my work with the elderly, especially those with severe dementia or with severe physical limitations, is to find ways that they can continue to participate in life, whether it be in simple tasks like helping them to brush their own teeth, or choose the clothing they want to wear, or in leading a prayer before their meal, or helping them to receive a phone call from a loved one.
For those who have had their faculties diminished or broken down, participating requires both a lot of effort and also a lot of help. Sometimes it would be much easier just to do things for them, rather than take the time and extra effort to help them participate.
One of the most moving examples of this was something that happened when my Grandmother in the hospital and dying of cancer, about 20 years ago. She was one of the most gracious people I knew. Whenever anyone entered her home, she would sit you down and serve your coffee, while she then prepared something to feed you, too!
Well, the cancer had spread to her brain, and she was becoming very confused, and she was unable to leave her bed. But when any person came into her room…a doctor, nurse, housekeeper, family member, she wanted to give them coffee, as she had always done all her life in her own home. It so distressed her that she couldn’t see her coffee pot, that we brought it from her apartment, and set it up in her room, along with a tray of cups and sugar and creamer and snacks, so that Grandma could still offer hospitality to anyone entering her hospital room.
She would lay in her bed and be able to direct people to help themselves and this greatly relieved her. We even asked the doctors and specialists to just take a cup, even if they didn’t want it…and we would dispose of it later, but Gram needed to offer hospitality!
It was the day before Thanksgiving and some of us were visiting her and when I told her that the next day was Thanksgiving, she got all worried and wondered who would be peeling all the potatoes? She urgently needed to participate, and kept asking me over and over about the potatoes, so I went home and got her old big pot, and some potatoes and her peeler and brought them to her bedside and helped her as she feebly attempted to participate in this feast.
Her eyes were so determined, but her hands and mind were failing her. I cried as I watched those once nimble fingers that could peel a potato or an apple in one continuous curly peel. She started to fall asleep with the peeler in one hand and potato in the other. I gently removed them and watched her quietly go away into a comatose state.
She never woke up.
Her last semi-conscious act had been to try and Participate in the Feast and we were all so moved.
My Grandmother Participated in the Feast of Life in a most humble and ordinary way, (but it was a powerful, connecting way.) I know that she passed on something of this commitment to me, and I am so deeply grateful to her.
My whole journey of healing required a commitment of Participation, no matter how insane I was at any given moment…and gradually the participation in my own healing became a solid foundation of dignity, self-respect and joy.
Thank you for Participating in the Feast of Life and Healing with me!
With my Gift from the Heart, Z moim Dar z Serca, Con il mio Dono dal Cuore,
Gabriel Orion Marie
* For those of you who may not know, I have published a series of three books that tell the story of my recovery and healing from profoundly intense physical, sexual and spiritual abuse. These books have dozens of paintings that I did during my process and those paintings are a core form of communication I used in my Healing. These books are available on Amazon. I hope you will read them and pass them on to others!
This White House (Book One), Going Sane (Book Two) and A Spectacular Dawn (Book Three)