I heard her coming down the hall. I’m not sure who designed this particular doctor’s office, but they didn’t have patient confidentiality in mind because I can hear everything that goes on in this office from anywhere in this office. I’ll call her Marion. “I don’t know what he gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey.” Apparently the staff thought this was pretty clever.
As she rounded the corner, I saw her walking with the aid of a walker, her old sunken face with toothless grin, her devoted husband with the same sunken face and toothless grin. She joined me in the waiting room.
“I don’t know what that doctor gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey!” she informed me, flashing me a wide toothless smile. I was immediately filled with love and compassion for this woman…for the struggle she is enduring, for whatever physical infirmaties she has that a morning of relative well-being would fill her with such joy, for a life once lived that was so very different than the life she is now living, for the slow decline into death that she never would wish on anyone else. She turned to me again, “My favorite color is purple!” she informed me.
As I rose to join Mavis in the exam room I was also filled with an acute sense of thankfulness that Mavis was not in the same place as this dear woman. Her memory is failing and she requires my help and support, but mentally she is still very active and engaged. Rather than spending any time or energy dreading that day when my dear mother-in-law will become like Marion, I think instead that I will choose to savor every day that she is still herself.