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.
Beautifully said, Jamie. I know we don’t know each other personally, but I always read your blog and feel a connection through John and Richard. I wish you strength in this difficult time. It sounds like your mother is in the best possible care. She will surely be proud of you and your brother.
Heartfelt wishes from Prague, Angus
How wonderful….. and sad. Thinking of you! Take care of yourselves… and all involved… that is kindness too.
Ah Jamie. Such beautiful thoughts expressed at what must be a heart-wrenching time. Thank you for the gift of your kind and moving words. Sending you a big hug from Brighton xx
A beautiful piece, Jamie.
My thoughts are with you Jamie – it expresses perfectly how we feel about our Mum’s experience, I’ve passed it on to her care home – sending love and thoughts x
Jamie, given the circumstances (and with your typical self-effacement you have not mentioned them in the last week when we have met) I don’t expect to see you in Edinburgh this afternoon at the Michael Marra event at the Book Festival, but Michael, remember, always rated kindness as one of the greatest of human characteristics and his songs are full of the stuff: despite everything, “all will be well”, and the big light that must shine on someone (to paraphrase ‘Letter from Perth’) will shine on you once the darkness has passed. May your mother go kindly and well after such a long and full life.
At your consummate best when your senses are heightened.
At this particularly uncaring time in our World, it is reassuring and heartwarming to hear that carers that are so important to you and your Mum truly live up to their name.
Mums are very very special. My thoughts are very much with you.
Very beautiful, very true from my experience too. How wonderful that that home and those people are on your doorstep and as you say that there was a place for her. May she and you go well. Love Margaret
This is lovely Jamie. Kindness and love well from the same spring! Your mother is blessed to have you.Much love,Anita.
Thank you all for your kind and lovely messages. However well prepared one might be, losing one’s mother is something to be reckoned with, it seems. Jamie
A beginning of a whole new era. Take care of yourself!
It is indeed, Jamie – I’m not sure that one ever gets over it entirely. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Sim and Arabella at this sad time.
A beautifully written piece, despite it being such a difficult time, giving much deserved credit to those that are often overlooked and undrvalued by society at large. We experienced something of the kindness you write of when María and I visited Aunt Jean in October last year. The home has a lovely, caring atmosphere, that extended beyond the residents to include visitors. RIP Aunt Jean.
It was a long time ago but I remember mum as a very lovely and kind lady – thinking of you all x x