The kindness – perhaps I should call it love – that abounds at my mother’s care home is almost overwhelming. She is in her last hours. Since early yesterday morning my brother and I have been taking it in turns to keep vigil. By the time this is posted she may or may not still be with us.
This is not unexpected. She turned ninety in May and has been at the home, a few hundred yards from my house, for nearly seven years. It’s a small, unpretentious place with room for only twenty-five residents and we count ourselves blessed every day that there was a room for her there when we needed it.
I have got to know the staff well. From the manageress down to the ladies who work in the laundry, there is unfailing good cheer, a ready smile, a joke or a sympathetic nod and a solicitous hand on the arm when required, not to mention the constant offer of a cup of tea.
These wonderful carers are some of the lowest-paid people in our community, yet their ability to give constantly, to value and respect the lives of others, to put their charges’ needs above their own, humbles me every time I see it.
Some of them are middle-aged, some are barely into their twenties. It makes no difference. And now, as we approach my mother’s end, their tenderness towards her and their evident sorrow at the prospect of losing her, is touching beyond words.
When I started writing this blog and named it A Few Kind Words, nine years ago to the month, I wanted to speak about my belief that good writing, in any context, but particularly within the world of work, acknowledges our mutual human-kindness as writers and readers.
Since then, my thoughts about kindness have gone beyond the language of the workplace and become a pervasive theme in my life, if one, I readily acknowledge, that I don’t always manage to live up to.
The way my mother’s carers are with her, and me, seems to exemplify everything I aspire to, everything I believe that society should aspire to – and a good deal of what Scotland, where I’m lucky enough to live in these unkind times, actually stands for.
Kindness and love are not quite the same thing, but they well from the same spring; and perhaps at moments like the one my family is experiencing right now, their waters mingle beyond distinction.
Although they would say without hesitation that my mother deserves it, I count her fortunate to be approaching her death in the loving care of these exceptional yet altogether ordinary people.