Quality of Life
My sister, Mary, is one of the kindest people I know. We are only eight months apart in age. You see, Mary was adopted by our parents after our mother suffered three miscarriages. Then, as oftentimes happens, once the adoption procedures commenced my mother got pregnant with me. Growing up, Mary and I always had each other as friends; we always had a playmate. People mistakenly thought we were twins; that’s how close we were, and still are.
So this wonderful, extraordinarily artistic sister of mine did something for me in response to my recent left eye cataract surgery. (See her website that spotlights some of her paintings.)
My siblings and I were raised as Roman Catholics. In our adulthood, we have followed different spiritual paths so that none of us follow the religion in which we were raised. With that said, however, Mary went to Mass the day after my eye surgery because she felt that our parents would also be there and would provide an added prayer boost to Mary’s intentions.
My sister feels very strongly about her connection with our long-deceased parents as prayer partners during Mass and has gone an additional time just this week with the intention that my left eye experiences 100% healing. She will also go next Wednesday so that my right cataract surgery that takes place the day before (April 17th) will be a complete success with no complications.
Mary has a very full and busy life with 5 children and 9 grandchildren. She volunteers every Tuesday morning to collect donated food from local grocery stores for her church’s lunch ministry. She is very attentive to her mother-in-law whose failing health requires a great deal of Mary’s and her husband’s time. She drives friends to doctor appointments, babysits her grandchildren…you get the idea. She’s busy, so adding yet another To Do to her growing list of responsibilities truly says a lot about her.
To be sure, we need more people like my sister who is the embodiment of kindness. Mary’s light shines in many places, near and far, a light that has landed on many over the years.
“Do you have any other coupons?” the salesperson asked.
“Why, no, just the one.”
“You can ask me.”
Not certain what I was supposed to do at that point I asked, “Do you have any coupons?”
Yep, she sure did, which she scanned bringing the price of the item even lower…almost to the point where I was wondering if they would owe me money, rather than the other way around.
The salesperson didn’t have to be generous and kind like that, but she was.
And that’s my Kindness Friday for this week. Don’t you just love it?
The best way to paint this picture is to assume you’re in the kitchen, you pull out a gallon of milk from the refrigerator, take it to the counter to pour yourself a glass of milk and the full glass of milk spills on the counter, over the edge of the counter, and onto the kitchen floor.
If another family member is in the near vicinity, that family member intervenes, tells the person who inadvertently spilled the milk to leave the kitchen, and the other family member cleans it up.
“But Mom, I spilled it, I should have to clean it up.”
“You didn’t do it on purpose, Irene. You already feel bad for spilling the milk, let me lessen your burden by cleaning it up for you.”
And that’s what happened throughout my childhood, and it’s what happens now in my adulthood. A little kindness goes a very long way…all the way from Grandma Conroy’s Edmonton, Alberta kitchen in the 1920s thru 1940s, all the way to mine in Redmond, Washington in the 21st-century.
My husband and I had the privilege of keeping the spouse of this family member company at the hospital during the day’s nail-biting, angst-filled four-hour surgery. All of us, family and strangers with a loved one in surgery, were gathered in the same neurosurgery waiting room, a room where the surgeon meets up with families immediately after the surgery to deliver the exploratory news that summarizes the surgery and its outcome.
Approximately fifteen minutes prior to our surgeon’s meeting with us, another neurosurgeon met with a family fifteen feet away from us in the waiting area. Their news was not at all good. The only words I heard were, “I know you hoped this surgery would be the end of it but that is not the case I’m sorry to say.” The four daughters and husband immediately started sobbing. I felt I was an unwelcome observer because of the grief I witnessed.
Then my family member’s surgeon met with us and declared that he had removed all of the massive tumor from my sister-in-law’s brain and it was not cancerous. We were relieved and felt exhilarated but tamped down our excitement.
How can it be that in the course of a quarter hour’s worth of time, one family’s extreme happiness could co-exist with the other family’s extreme devastation?
I guess the answer is that life happens to all of us; sometimes it is good, and other times it is not. Very sobering, to be sure.
I am ecstatic that our news was good but very much aggrieved that the other family’s was not.
Walt came into our lives when we lived in Los Angeles, California. He worked at the same company as my father who was a mentor to the young, up-and-coming new employee at Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Company. When my family moved from LA to Honolulu, Hawaii, Walt kept in touch with us, oftentimes flying through Honolulu on his way to Maui where he vacationed from time to time.
We hadn’t seen Walt in a while, so when my mother died in September of 1994, imagine my delighted surprise when I entered the church for my mother’s funeral service and there stood Walt near the altar, a friend who had flown to Honolulu from Toronto, Canada where he had relocated years prior to work in the head office of my father’s company.
At forty years of age, I ran up the aisle of the church and threw my arms around him, so thrilled to see our family friend and so blessed that he traveled all the way from eastern Canada to honor my mother and our family by his attendance at my mother’s service.
Fast-forward twenty-four years to Monday of this week when eighty-three-year old Walt D. called me from Toronto to congratulate me on my novel, Requiem for the status quo. He had just finished reading it and couldn’t wait to talk to me about my accomplishment. “Irene, there is no reason why your novel shouldn’t be on the New York Times Best Seller List!” I thanked him for his very generous review and we then talked about the book’s subject matter (Alzheimer’s disease and its effect on families) and how he, in his golden years, had witnessed dementia’s hold on many of his friends. Since Walt and I communicate by postal mail several times a year (he does not own or use a computer), I was well-aware of his involvement with the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada where he volunteers and participates in their equivalent of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Walt visited my father after my Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, even while my father was in the middle of his Alzheimer’s journey. Walt made a point of keeping in touch with Dad, knowing the window of opportunity would come to a close in time.
I spent nearly a half hour on the phone with Walt this past Monday, feeling so close to this man who had entered our lives way back in the early 1960s, and who had remained a part of our family for almost sixty years. Friendships don’t have to end because of distance and time; when you stoke the flames they can survive and be contributory to one’s quality of life, as Walt’s has been to mine.
Kindness doesn’t recognize the barriers of distance, time, and even age.
Kindness can live on if we make the effort to nourish it.
He doesn’t have to.
All of us came into this world without guile, judgment, or well-practiced hidden agendas. We didn’t learn that type of negative behavior until we got older and became seasoned in the fine art of selfishness and deception. I know, those are cruel and unfair words for me to say because I’m quite certain most of us do not purposefully act in a manner that is disingenuous or self-serving. With that said, however, I also know that one hundred percent of all babies are not capable of such mind games.
Our grandson – fully reliant on his parents, grandparents, and other adults – has every reason to consciously act in a manner that always guarantees the adults in his life will serve his every need. Fortunately, he doesn’t yet know how to do that. The innocence and pureness of his untainted mind has no room for such chicanery.
When my husband (his grandpa) repeatedly makes that silly noise that draws laughter from our grandson, the little guy isn’t running the following commentary through his head: Okay, that noise is kind of boring me at this point because it is SO yesterday, but I should probably laugh each and every time so I don’t hurt the old guy’s feelings. Nope, it doesn’t even occur to him to pretend because he is genuinely tickled by it. The laughter that comes from this absolutely adorable eight-month-old person is honest and outward-serving, not inward-serving.
When his mommy drops him off at our house on the two days we watch him every week, I can oftentimes be heard saying, “Is that my grandson? Oh my goodness, it is my grandson, I’m so happy to see you!” He breaks into that delightful, heart-melting smile of his, exuding pure kindness by his obvious delight at seeing his Grammo and Grandpa. When he smiles like that I think to myself: You’ve made my day, just by being you.
Our grandson gives out kindness free of charge, a kindness that isn’t dependent on his current circumstances, regardless of what they may be. Innocence is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? A pure mind – that consequently holds only pure intentions – is one of the most valuable commodities on this earth. What a privilege it is for my husband and me to be on the receiving end of such goodness.
Many thanks go out to his parents for entrusting us with this grandparenting opportunity..
It’s really easy to be kind when life is going grand.
Clarification. The kindness gene resides within me, just as it does in you if you feed it and let it flourish. I feel absolutely honest saying that my pattern of thinking reflects the best of kindness one can imagine. At the very least, my intentions are pure.
With that said, however, when I’m feeling less than 100% – say, 25% – I have to work hard at not letting others be on the receiving end of that less than whole person that I’ve become. I’ve had a lousy night of sleep while also fighting seriously inflamed sinuses? Ugh, I must rein in my struggles and not take it out on the receptionist at the doctor’s office, or the supermarket employee. I sincerely don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone else’s perfect, gloriously, healthy, well-slept day. (Gawd, I’m envious of those who have been given the gift of sleep.)
All it takes is one look, one word – or the omission of a word – to spew miserableness onto someone else.
Kindness is a way of life for me but sometimes it threatens to take a break from the norm and that’s when it’s needed the most in the world. You see, I’m not the only person who has less than stellar days. I’d be self-centered to think I’m the only person the world takes a dump on now and again. Everyone in this world is vulnerable – everyone – and far too many are on the brink of giving up. We are all in this together, in good times and in bad.
I vow to not contribute to the latter.