by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I took my mother with me yesterday to a wonderful concert by Lexington Chamber Orchestra. Their concerts are always a delight. I recommend attending and supporting these fine artists.
I know the value of listening to excellent quality music. You may find my article about music's positive effects on health and cognitive function in LivingWell 60+ magazine.
I noticed an older couple sitting in front of us. The man was in a motorized wheelchair in the aisle, with his wife sitting at the end of the aisle. After the concert I offered to help get him up the steep aisle. My mother sat patiently waiting in the lobby.
This caregiver stranger and I steered the spastic vehicle up the aisle, through the lobby, out the door, across the road and into her van. If I hadn’t been monitoring the wheelchair, it could have tipped over as we led her husband up the bumpy, steep sidewalk. Though he was strapped in, both the woman and myself wrestled to keep her six-foot-plus husband from falling out of the wheelchair.
When she lowered the van ramp, it accidentally landed on the man’s feet. I lifted it while his wife pulled him backwards. Getting the chair into the vehicle was a swerving struggle. We barely managed to keep the man’s arm from getting smashed on the van door as the wheelchair lodged its left wheel into the doorway. After more struggle, we got him into the van. I helped her get the four floor-installed seatbelts hooked onto the wheelchair to keep him from rolling while she drove.
I share this story as it moved my heart that this caregiver regularly does this without my help. Her devotion and love for her husband was undeniable. It was an agonizing ordeal with both of us. Yet this woman daily takes care of her husband alone, without any help from strangers like me.
I said it was wonderful that she brought her husband to experience culture's therapeutic and healing power. She shared they had listened to the concert's music during their courtship and it brought back wonderful memories. We quoted lyrics from the songs to each other and laughed.
I shared that her husband‘s face energetically lit up at a particular point in the concert, when the first violins attacked a new melodic theme with dynamic gusto.
I said she must love her husband to go through such physical difficulty to bring him to a concert. She said when most people lose mobility, they stop going out. She was determined to bring her husband and herself to activities as long as possible.
It was a short moment looking through the window of this caregiver’s experience. I’m also a new caregiver for my mother, so I’m aware of a multitude of issues that come with being an adult caregiver. But this woman’s effort for her husband, and his response to the music concert was a beautiful drama. It was a poignant statement of humanity, love, music's healing power, and the bittersweet plight of caregivers.
But mostly it was inspiring and humbling. I want to be as generous, compassionate, determined, and loving as this woman is to her husband. I want to be able to do that kind of good for my mother when it’s necessary while I’m in the caregiving role.
I want to take the lesson of self-care from this experience. This woman enjoyed the therapy of live music for her own wellness as well as for her partner. I want to appreciate the sincerity of care this woman is giving her husband. She is a testament to the universal nobility of caregivers.
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