As a caregiver, I look at the old person and wonder how to get what is stagnant moving again.
When I was growing up in Oklahoma, a bowl of cherries meant summer. Cherry pies came by the Fourth of July, the seasons marched on and life was closely connected to summer, autumn, winter and spring. But the older I got, with central heating and air, the less the seasons mattered. We moved to bigger cities where we could always have cherry pie and it was easy to forget the trees, like drinking milk and forgetting the cow. Easy to forget that the sounds of tires rolling on wet pavement are the sounds of men fighting for petroleum and rubber and other resources.
By the time we are old and unwell, what might have been the flowing connection to the seasons and senses has become the serious march of life moving on without much connection to being human, a human being with a warm heart circulating the blood thru the veins and arteries and channels of life.
So how do we who are aging or charged with caring for elderly people at the end of life get it going? What kind of care do caregivers need so they don’t feel stuck? How can we not sink under the weight of the suffering of old age?
Try a bowl of cherries. Cherries are expensive, but get enough to fill your favorite bowl. Set the freshly washed berries on the table, or the window ledge. Then feel what you feel: the beauty of red, the little stems pointing gracefully, the sun bouncing off berry and bowl. Then extend your mind to the cherry pickers. Feel your appreciation for the hardship of the farmer who grew the cherries and the pickers who picked them and the truckers who brought them to the store. Just let yourself go. Appreciate not only the fruit but also the potter who made the bowl and the trees who gave the wood to make the window sill. All that life and all that death, all for a bowl of cherries. And ain’t it the truth? You can expand your mind until your mental image of appreciation is vast and your worry is a small dot in the midst of so much treasure. Or it could be the other way around.
Then look in the daily paper in the Life and Living section and find all that is offered. I remember once when I was sinking under the weight of caring for an elder who was in the stage of repeating over and over, “I want to go home.” Finally I started driving around looking for something to do. Spotting a little neighborhood fair, I parked the car and took the old woman by the arm as we made our way through a crowd. There was cotton candy and the aroma of hot dogs and the sound of a rock band with a singer screaming. Finally my companion looked at me and said, “I want to go home.” She wasn’t crazy at all. We drove home and had an enjoyable supper, and as we ate, I heard the words of “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”:
“It’s time we found out,
We’re not here to stay,
We’re on a short holiday.”