In her last two years, my mother was plagued with increasing poor health and dementia.
Her move from living in her own house to a quasi-nursing home was swift and dramatic. I bundled her home with me on Christmas Day so I could help her get over a flu bug and by New Year’s Eve she was sipping “champagne” at Victoria Place retirement home.
We whittled her many possessions down to what was most precious to her. We filled her one new room with books, photo albums, vases, some paintings, a chair and a large cabinet. I also stashed many of her endless crafting supplies in the nursing home’s rec room, but my mother never touched them again.
Everything else, including her house and car, was given to family members or charity or sold.
A month before my mother died, I had a birthday party for her and invited all her friends. I brought her mother’s vase to the nursing home and filled it with lilacs. My mother could no longer recognize some of the people at the party, but she exclaimed over the vase and was lost in memories of her mother, of lilacs, of birthdays past, of the vase and of bringing it to Canada.
In her last week, my mother was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The only possession she ever expressed any concern for was her false teeth. Where were they? Could she have them in?
Eventually she slipped into a coma and her teeth were taken out. It was just my mom then – naked under a sheet in a mercilessly sunny hospital room with her family and her dearest friend at her side.
That’s what your life comes down to. You. Your experiences. And the people you love.
We are never done changing and growing as human beings.
Psychologists say that by the age of five our personalities are fixed. That may be true.
But our experiences, perceptions, responses, opportunities and consequences are very much in flux throughout our lives, and the people around us can profoundly influence us.
Remember as a teenager when your parents didn’t want you to hang around So-and-So because he/she was a bad influence? You rolled your eyes in response and thought (or said) “No one is going to make me do anything I don’t want to do.” Maybe So-and-So couldn’t make you do things, but they could introduce you to ideas and activities you didn’t even know you wanted to do – and some of those things could be questionable, stupid or dangerous.
Conversely, people in your life can introduce you to brilliant, stimulating, uplifting ideas and experiences.
Studies show that spending time with the same social group can limit your growth. The reasoning is that your exposure to new information and ideas is limited. Media coverage on abuse and bullying, which happens at home, school and the workplace, reminds us daily of the low self-esteem, anger, depression and despair these situations produce.
People will come and go in your life and they will help shape your understanding of the world and of yourself.
Don’t underestimate the influence of the outside world on your growth and well being. And never forget you have the power to change who and what you keep around you. Choose well.
p.s. I mean no disrespect to dogs; I love them all – even the ones with fleas.