The Quiet Seasons of Life
Autumn, that time of year when there is a chill in the air and the evening sky appears gray with strokes of purple and orange painted through it. A time when the horizon glows with the vivid colors of red, orange and gold much like the colors on an artist’s palate. There is a quietness that comes in the fall as the trees begin to shed their beauty. The air turns colder and there is a silence in the dark nights that whispers to you in its stillness. The landscape of the horizon is much clearer now as the trees stand bare against the winter sky. It is during these quiet seasons when life seems to slow down, and we become more reflective.
In recent months I have taken on the role of a caregiver. During conversations I have had with the ladies I care for I have come to see the reality of the fall and winter of life much clearer. Long gone are the days of planning events of life, days are now spent in reflection of the past. Much like the beauty of the leaves clinging to the trees in fall, they share their memories with me, hanging on to them for just a bit longer before they are gone. They share of their yesterdays, stories that begin to bring color to a canvas and paint the beauty of a life once lived. Their memories come together like the colors of an artist and as you listen, you begin to see their story, one that is unique to the author and one that will never be told or lived again.
I have been amazed at the openness of these ladies. One in her final days of cancer, one in the beginning stages of dementia, the other healing from a fall and in need of companionship more than assistance. Each one with their own needs, having never met, and yet sharing a common thread as they live in the autumn of their days. I listen and I am intrigued by their tales. I am drawn in by the fact that even as their minds wander, even as sickness robs them of their physical strength or capabilities they seem to only be looking to yesterdays and no longer living for the tomorrows. Life has brought them a change that they were not prepared for.
As the coolness of the autumn breeze gently sweeps away the busyness of summer, the wind of change has come to the lives of these wonderful ladies. Much like the chill of winter leaves us longing for the warmth of summer, the silence of their days are spent yearning for a bit of the days gone by, to feel busy, useful and alive again.
I listen as one shares of past holidays, about the laughter and the preparations for family and neighborhood gatherings. Weekends and holidays are the loneliest of her days as there is little to do. She listens to TV, not really watching and looks at the paper, not really reading. She shares of missing her friends, her car, going to church and the usefulness of being a nurse. She sits quiet, reflective, lonely and bored. She longs for the warm, busy days of the summer months of her life.
The other, in the beginning stages of dementia, replays the stories of her youth and her life as a new bride. There are the memories of her mom who baked wonderful cakes and the smell of those cakes that filled the house with warmth in the fall. She shares of shopping trips with her cousin and friends with whom she traveled, but who are now long gone. Her eyes wander as she shares how one by one, friends that she enjoyed are no longer there. As the details of her memory begins to fade, she shares nothing of today, or tomorrow; her conversations all involve vivid memories of the people and times from her past that brought the color to her life.
In the final stages of cancer, a quick witted lady who in this quiet winter of her life reflects on regrets, wishing she had been a more forgiving mother. I am struck by the reality that has become her life. She spends most of her day sleeping awakening with dreams of her past fresh on her mind as if she was living them today. She shares how she waits to be called home. Like a long winter it is the waiting that tires her now.
The true happiness of these lives are in their yesterdays. The reliving of past stories are the pages of their todays, and for each of these ladies the promise of heaven is the hope of their tomorrow. Much like the horizon in the winter is clearer as the trees stand bare against the sky, the lives lived by these ladies are much clearer to them now as they miss the beauty in life that they once enjoyed.
As a caregiver the family looks to me to care for their loved ones. Beyond that care is a silent role that I have been entrusted with; it is the privilege of listening and watching as an artist unfolds the colors of their memories, and to recognize the beauty of their life. I have been given the gift to bring affirmation to the story that needs to be shared, perhaps one last time before the autumn breeze turns to winter and this life is gone.
Autumn, for all of its beauty, is truly the beginning of death. The beauty of the leaves that we long to see each fall are vivid in their color because of the change that is to come. The quiet seasons, while perhaps lonely, are truly a gift. Eternity is set in the hearts of the women I care for, as it is set in the heart of all mankind, and scripture reminds us of that. While not prepared for the changes that life has brought them in their final days here on earth, their faith has prepared them for a greater beauty and a greater reward for the lives they have lived.
Linda Fereira blogs at linesandlattes.blogspot.com.
By Milan Garbiar from Liesek, Slovakia (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons