DON’T KNOW HOW I LIVED WITHOUT YOU – PART 1

Judy and Miriam

“She was wished for”

My transformation that began last year, which I’ve termed “My Journey’s Insight,” has allowed me to connect and reconnect with so many wonderful people in my life. Childhood friends, teachers, artists, musicians, and poets; well, I could go on and on!

An example of a “new connection” would be my mother’s caregiver, Miriam.

I decided to look up the meaning of the name, Miriam. One meaning that was listed was “wished for.” That sounded accurate for me!

Six months ago, I hired a caregiver for my mother over both of my parent’s objections. Just as I had experienced with Rosa, my housekeeper of twenty years, I did not expect my mother’s caregiver to be such an exceptional gem.

Gems that “sparkle,” rarely reveal themselves to the naked eye upon first glimpse.

Similar to my experience with Rosa, my first caregiver quit after one day, and I hesitated to search for another one. After a few weeks, I once again followed my instincts, which told me it would be helpful for my mother to have the “extra attention.” I called someone at my mother’s nursing facility and asked if they had the number of another caregiver I could hire.

I liked Miriam when I first met her, and I felt an enormous sense of relief. After that first day, I rarely saw her.

She intuitively knew I was consumed with reclaiming my life after so many years of caregiving to my family.

Miriam was very careful not to “bother me” with anything that might add stress to my life. All the while, she managed to alleviate my mother’s dementia episodes as best she could. When my mother was not with Miriam, I witnessed and experienced the challenges that Miriam faced on a daily basis.

Whenever I spoke with Miriam, she said things to me that were unusual for someone simply “doing their job.” Miriam was invested in my mother.

While we were in the hospital emergency room after my mother fell, Miriam was beside herself. She kept telling me she wished she could have prevented my mother’s fall. Both of us had premonitions about it, since my mother was a “risk taker.”

Miriam had to leave the room when a catheter was inserted into my mother. When my mother was screaming in pain, Miriam cried with me.

Later on, I had to make a decision about whether to allow for my mother to have surgery to repair her hip, Miriam’s eyes were locked with mine as both of us listened to all the compelling reasons why surgery was necessary.

It was so helpful for me to have her there, listening and coping with doctors that were unwavering in their argument for surgical intervention.

Miriam understood my mother’s fragility so well. Both of us drew from each other to have the strength to follow our convictions about not putting my mother through surgery.

“Monday morning”

I received a text message from Miriam a few days earlier that said:

“I read the beautiful thing you wrote about me (on the blog) and I feel really glad to see so many pictures of your beautiful mom. I just wanna let you know that the time I am with your mom, she’ll have all my love and my best care.”

Miriam had her day off on Sunday, and she was very worried about my mother. I reassured her with a text message that my mother’s day went smoothly.

When I arrived, her first words to me were, “When I came this morning, it was such a mess! There was no way anyone could move around here!”

Like a bustling housekeeper, I saw she had organized the space around my mother so it was neat and uncluttered. My mother’s face was clean and her hair combed. Miriam was meticulous about my mother’s care, and her gentleness and love made my heart sing.

My mother said she’d enjoy listening to my music while resting on her bed, so I pulled out my guitar. I wanted to play the emerging melody of my newest composition. My heart and my music were connected as I sang.

When I am composing a song, I become consumed with it and have difficulty playing anything else!

I tentatively decided to sing my new, chorus lyrics to the song. I had mentioned to her earlier that I was writing her a song. I wondered if my mother knew that the song was about her.

Miriam’s eyes were moist and moved. She seemed to know all of my songs well. When she told me her children enjoyed my music, it was nice to hear that! I told her my own teenagers certainly didn’t appreciate my music.

Miriam was so appreciative for those moments listening to me play. I felt so grateful for all she did for my mom; how easy this was to give back something to her in this way! I let her know I’d be doing this more often. My mother’s eyes gradually closed and she fell asleep. It was time for me to put away my guitar. 

Playing my music for my mom was a wonderful way to spend time with her. I was opening up to her again!

Miriam said softly, “You’ve touched me in an unbelievable way.”

I left with a vision. When my mom does leave this earth, Miriam will cry with me.

A recent picture of my parents.

“Wednesday morning”

hon·es·ty n

truthfulness, candor, or sincerity

I have come to realize that I have difficulty holding back from sharing things that might be painfully honest.

I feel compelled to be honest, and I apologize if what I write might seem overly so.

I came to visit my mom. As I was parking, Miriam called me. Her voice was worried as she shared that my mother had diarrhea and was unable to eat or drink this morning. I told her I’d be there shortly.

As I entered the dimly lit room, I could see my mom was very weak. She obediently drank a cup of water from me. Then her eyes closed and it seemed best to let her rest.

Miriam was glad I was there. She said, “Judy, your father won’t allow me to organize your mother’s clothes – what shall I do?”

She showed me how the closet was bursting and held up items that looked almost like rags. I told her to take out all of the clothes that had holes – they would go in the trash. My mother used to love shopping with me for clothes; I felt sad to see the condition of most of her wardrobe.

I had a huge pang when Miriam pulled out several pairs of underwear. It really hurt. Both of us looked at each other with the knowledge of what it meant.

For over a year now, my beautiful, proud mother wore a diaper– she would never wear underwear again.

For two hours Miriam worked on the closet. She sorted the clothes into different piles. There were those my mother never wore. I told her to take them to her church, since neither of us had a use for them.

There were old shoes, too – and that also made me sad.

We both agreed that my father wouldn’t accept anything being taken away since he was an intense hoarder. I told Miriam that my father could think that I was simply “storing those items” at my home. As I watched her bustling away, I could hardly contain my appreciation. I realized I didn’t even know her last name!

I actually didn’t know anything about her, except that she loved my mother.

Miriam had no idea I had written about her. I brought a camera with me, but wasn’t sure if it was a good day to take any pictures. My mother looked wan and worn out.

Soon, my mother was snoring soundly. While Miriam cleaned out the closet we talked about many things. I found out a lot more about her.

She held up some of my mom’s favorite outfits to show me. I remembered well how my mom and I went shopping every week. I remembered when my mom bought her favorite, white jacket with the embroidered butterflies.

I closed my eyes and clearly pictured her excitement when she tried it on during one of our long ago, shopping outings.

Miriam looked serious when she said, “Your mother has such a strong spirit and will to live.” Then she added, “I showed her this summer blouse, and she said to me that she might not be alive by the summertime.”

I listened raptly. My mother was aware of her situation.

Miriam’s eyes sparkled when she said, “I told her that was nonsense! I put the summer clothes where she could see them. I let her know she will most definitely be around by summer! It’s very important for her to see those clothes.”

There were so many things my mom’s loving caregiver said hat morning, which I simply cannot adequately express!

When my mom’s dementia had her angry and paranoid; Miriam told me my mom would be angry with her. Miriam told me that she could handle it. I knew she rarely shared these things because she never wanted to bother me.

“Judy, your mother only needs to hear you are happy with you life. Then her face beams and she is okay. I am with her and you must live your life. That is what she wants!”

Miriam told me how difficult it was to watch the nurses change my mother’s diaper; it had been a huge mess this morning. My mother was in a lot of pain because it required a lot of turning and movement.

Due to the nursing facility regulations, Miriam was not allowed to handle my mother in this way. She said to me, “I want desperately to do this for your mother, because I understand how to be gentle and she is relaxed with me.”

Her face became resolute as she shared with me that she had made a deal with one of my mother’s nurses. No one could know. The nurse told her she would be allowed to change my mother’s diaper next time. Miriam looked very pleased about this.

I had to share this with my honesty. There was no other way I could convey my amazement of the lengths my mother’s companion wanted to go to in order to make her comfortable.

My father was often grouchy and irritable. Miriam shared that she loved my father also. “I understand your father,” she told me.

She said, “Even if your father, Mr. Lee, could not pay me – I would still come to take of your mother! I love her dearly and as long as she is alive I am here for her!”

I believed her.

I pulled out of my purse two CD’s of my music that I had made for her. As I handed it to her, I opened up to her about something that was bothering me.

“You know, Miriam, I realize that no one lives forever – I am writing a song now for my mother where I am saying goodbye to her. I don’t know – perhaps it is a bad omen for me to assume her leaving me is so imminent!

As we talked about this, it became clear how no human knows when their time on this earth is up. Miriam reassured me that my song wasn’t encouraging my mom to give up.

My mother opened her eyes. She beamed and stroked my face as I kissed her. My mother always told me that I looked beautiful.

Miriam combed my mother’s hair and applied rouge and lipstick for her. As I watched the two of them, I decided I could take a picture.

It was now lunchtime. A nurse came in and lifted my mother into her wheelchair; I didn’t see my mother express any pain.

It was time for me to leave. As I walked to my car, I had to listen to my music on my iPod. The ache in my heart needed to hear music, as soon as possible.

That morning, I asked Miriam if she knew the meaning of her name. She knew that her name was biblical; she knew about Miriam from the bible.

I told her it meant, “Wished for.”

Little did she know that she was more than I could ever have wished for!

She believed that God had sent her to help my mother and me.

I actually began to believe that, too.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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6 Responses to DON’T KNOW HOW I LIVED WITHOUT YOU – PART 1

  1. Steve says:

    Judy,

    I was very touched by today’s blog and hearing more about Miriam. Your Mom is blessed to have found her. She is terrific, and I hope she reads this. The pictures of you and Miriam, and the last one of Miriam kissing your Mom, are great. 🙂

    Take care. Steve

    Like

  2. Lori says:

    Judy,
    To have found someone who has such great love and concern for your mom is truly a blessing. There needs to be more Miriam’s in this world. She is a real treasure.
    Lori

    Like

  3. Carol says:

    Judy,

    I had tears in my eyes, reading about what a loving, caring person Miriam is. You and your mom are so blessed to have her there. I loved the photos of Miriam and your mother–so sweet.

    Carol

    Like

  4. Miriam says:

    Dear Judy,

    I am shocked and very emotional by all the great things you say about me. I wanna tell you that your mom deserves this and much more! It is true that GOD send me to her life and your family’s life because you guys are truly amazing people. All of you have the same beautifull heart that your mom has and MR. LEE, too. I wanna tell you that God bless you and your family always. I know all this beautifull things you guys express about me is a gift that GOD has given me. I would change nothing that I have done until today. I’ll continue to care and love your sweet mom. Just know, that my love for her gets stronger every day. I will make sure my care for your mom will be the best.

    love you Judy.. sincerly Miriam

    Like

    • Judy says:

      I can hardly find the words to answer your beautiful comment on the blog. I said everything in my story, and you know every word was true.

      Now anyone reading my story knows you are a real person. Your kindness and love has been very appreciated by our family and everyone that loves my mom.

      Love, Judy

      Like

  5. Janet F. says:

    Miriam’s gentle nature, love, and kindness are a gift. She came into your life when you needed her — and you are lucky to be able to share and express your appreciation. With all the rotten news of humanity these days, it is reassuring to find this kind of person in the world.

    Like

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