My mother (Sylvia Magee) was an extraordinary woman. We shared everything together, had overcome her cancer journey together but the Alzheimer diagnosis was the hardest. The Alzheimer’s progressed and soon she needed more care. But when these circumstances led us through the doors of the Regina Lutheran Home neither one of us could have imagined what this road was going to bring.
With each visit, something began to change for me. I was always greeted by name with a smile and stories of what had taken place in my absence. I came to see that Mom was accepted. Her caregivers had no preconceived notions about who she was or had been in her earlier life. They unconditionally accepted her.
Each voice on the phone, each caregiver, and each staff were becoming my extended family. They were the ones she came to recognize after she lost the ability to recognize me. I accepted that and found peace knowing that after all the extra days we had been blessed with through other health scares, she had many who had grown to know her in this final stage.
What I had come to witness was truly remarkable. These caregivers weren’t just doing a job. I believe they were answering a calling. What they gave us went well beyond what any job description could ever ask.
I saw patience, tenderness, acceptance, commitment. What I felt…was community. The staff got to know my mom and, with their care and attention, I believe she felt safe, secure and loved. She was treated with respect and dignity. I witnessed interaction, engagement and a genuine sense of caring not limited to the residents but extended to their families. I was blessed to be a part of it.
The most difficult day came November 28, 2011. I knew what was coming when the phone rang. I had lost my mother, my best friend and strongest supporter. As I sat at her bedside, other staff joined us. They said their goodbyes, recalled fond memories and offered comfort and support. I was not alone for they had suffered a loss as well.
As I sat with the funeral director I had one request – could the ceremony be held at the Regina Lutheran Home? What I hadn’t fully realized was that when I walked through those doors I was coming home as well.
Although Mom no longer resides there, I still feel a sense of coming home, of community, of being welcome when I walk through those doors. I will always feel a connection between us and consider each resident and staff as part of my extended family, my community, and my responsibility. There are two things I am certain of in this world: the love shared between my mother and me and the difference made during our final years together by the staff of the Regina Lutheran Home.