Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Through My Caregiver Eyes: The "Stuff" of life

It has been just over 2 years ...

Two years since my mom left my house for good - to move to Rehab and then to Assisted Living.

While mom lived here, she had a small suite of rooms: a private bathroom, a bedroom and a den.  She squeezed the stuff of her life into those rooms.  She was happy to do so because she had the things that mattered to her - and the security of living with family.  She had her "stuff" ... and everyone needs their stuff.

During her 5 years with me her stuff remained constant - never growing, never shrinking. She wasn't a spender and really needed little.   But other elements of her life shrunk and declined.  Some loss of independence, reduced ability to manage her small responsibilities, loss of driving, and finally declining health.  Eventually she even lost her ability to live with family.

And what of her stuff ...

Well I kept all her stuff just as she left it in her rooms for awhile.

Eight months after she moved, I decided to sort through her belongings and repackage them so that they fit snuggly into her bedroom.  It was time to reclaim the den for our use.  I downsized for her: for example she wouldn't need a Forman Grill, or craft supplies that her arthritic hands no longer could manage, or that mountain of papers she tucked away like a squirrel hiding nuts.  The downsizing was hard because it was an acceptance ...  she would not be returning. Still I kept her bedroom unchanged.  I couldn't seem to let that go.

After a year I removed the Chair Lift off the stairs.  It was a trip hazard for my husband who has limited vision ... and with mom not here, it served no purpose.  That was another small heart ache for me.

Now on the 2nd Anniversary of her life in Assisted Living - I decided to reclaim her bedroom.  Fortunately we have space in the lower level of our house to store her things.  But they no long reside in her room.  Her room is no longer "her room."  I have spent several nights boxing up her stuff and carrying it downstairs.  While that act has made me sad, it is not the worst.  Her total belongings have reduced to the size of one closet - exactly one closet of "stuff" left from a long life.  Her bedroom furniture will remain.  I downsized and packed away small stuff but not big stuff.

I know this sadness is mine alone.  Others may not understand my feelings.  Even mom wouldn't understand because she neither wants nor remembers any of these things.  In fact, the few things I brought to her Assisted Living room she did not want displayed.  It was like she had no plans to put down roots in that place.  Her roots were in my home and now they are in boxes.

The "stuff" of life can bring joy or sadness - even if the stuff isn't yours.

So I am fighting to focus on those things that aren't "stuff."  Her Thanksgiving was filled with family  - not things in boxes.  I fight those sad feelings since I can't control this decline and loss.  It is just a normal part of life.  I focus on "being there" for her.

Here she is with her family on Thanksgiving when we all gathered together to watch the parades and to share a Turkey Meal.  It was not home but she really enjoyed the visit.

Dear mom,

My home will always be your home despite the fact your legs will never carry you into it again.  You will always belong within the loving arms of your family.  Your stuff is just stuff.  Your real achievements are the great family you built and supported over the years.  You are much loved.  There is nothing else that matters.

Retired Knitter
Daughter and Caregiver


  1. Ah, what a sweet post. And so filled with pain and sadness but yet I can tell that you are accepting of the way that things are. God Bless you my friend!

  2. I feel your pain and admire your courage.

  3. Elaine, you are always very good with words, but these posts about your mother are especially thoughtful and moving and beautiful. How wonderful that you could all visit together!

  4. Beautiful, tender, loving . . . brings back memories to me of my mom . . .

  5. Happy you all shared a sweet, thankful . . . day with her!

  6. What a beautiful and wise post. It's so true that love and connection means most -- and the stuff that brings sadness either after a parent has moved on or has passed away simply represents that life and connection. Your Mom is very fortunate to have a family that loves and includes her so to the end of her days.

  7. I can feel your sadness in this post. But how true that her real achievements are in her family. So glad you had a great Thanksgiving with her. Hugs!

  8. I know how you feel, it is a heartache. How lucky , that you all had this Thanksgiving together. She is rich in family.

  9. So glad that you all got together for Thanksgiving. What a lovely family you have.

  10. Great picture of a loving family, hugs to you all.

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  12. I can feel your pain as I read this post, Elaine. Leaving our parents in those centers can be very hard for us, thinking that they might feel alone and lonely. However, it's for their benefit. Those home care centers will give them all the assistance that they need. I'm sure your mother is so grateful that you still value the stuff she owns. She must be proud to have a loving and thoughtful daughter like you. :)

    Clyde Parlier @ LeesburgVAHomeCare


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