this quote from the Dalai Lama is my thought of the month and it has made me think about what is a successful person? How do we judge success and what value do we put on experience, on kindness, on thought and on love?
New Years Day saw my hubby and I lazing around, watching TV and reading, not a very motivated start to the year but so relaxing. Yesterday it was time to do something, so we jumped in the car and went to visit family. Spending time with older people is often challenging, and we managed to visit three of our elderly relatives in one afternoon.
Seeing my once strong Auntie in her nursing home, looking thinner than ever, could be upsetting. She is surrounded by all her important possessions, her one room home a microcosm of her once full house, her life in a nutshell. Listening to her talking, very quickly you understand that the physical form is only hiding the person, she is still there. This is the Auntie that helped my Mum take out a whole fireplace, grate and all in an afternoon, because they could, the tale of their horror at the size of the hole it left in the wall and the subsequent antics to cover it up are part of family legend. This Auntie was the one I rang from the ambulance when I couldn’t get Mum, I was on route to hospital after a swimming accident, she came and held my hand while I was stitched up and then she took me back to Mum. It was this Auntie I spent most of my early years with, on days out and holidays, I remember being told off, I remember laughing til we cried. She is still there, this Auntie, just a bit frail and weak. She said that the home staff are lovely, but had tried to get her to join in with other residents over Christmas, she is not impressed with the other residents, they are all old, she says. It is just a heartbeat ago that she was strong, and it would be so easy to think she isn’t anymore. I think she is stronger than ever.
Auntie number two still lives in her own home despite failing sight and as she is approaching her 90th year her spirit is strong but she suffers chronic loneliness. I regret living so far that a weekly or even a daily visit is not possible, but delight in our almost daily phone conversations. She has great memories and is a very positive person. Her failing health is a frustration to her, as I am sure it would be to me, she is a woman who has been very independent and she finds it hard to ask for help. Anyway we chatted about the forthcoming wedding of her only Granddaughter, which impossibly for Auntie is to be held in Chicago. Auntie had hoped to be there, but yesterday decided the journey was just too much for her and she doesn’t want to spoil it for everyone by being poorly. Auntie is coming to stay with us when the wedding is happening and we are going to have a live Skype link to the ceremony, how exciting is that? We are all going to get dressed up and there will be Bucks Fizz and cake, it will be fabulous evening, I can’t wait.
The third relative is not actually related to me but is my relatives mother in law, she lives in her own home with her family living next door. Her every need is taken care of and she delights in the company of family on a daily basis. We got to talking about the old days and she told us tales of buying an old car and with her husband taking her young family off on adventures, sometimes taking the whole Sunday roast with them all wrapped up for a picnic lunch. As she told the stories there is a glimpse of how life used to be. When she was the home maker, the wife and mother. The same is true of all three visits we made yesterday, all three women have lived a full life, taken care of husbands and children, gone to work and spent time laughing with friends.
If we want to define success, how better a measure is that? A life lived with love, hardship endured, all these women knew poverty and war time, each has watched loved ones die, family grow and their friendships endure. I hope they all know how much they are still loved, and how important they are. It is sometimes too easy to see the body, the frailty, the infirmity, but listen, look into the eyes and see the life.
If we want a definition of success we need look no further.