This is Linda Couture's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?
Celebrating Our Shared Humanity
Looking back at this past year’s experience of living in my mother’s world of Alzheimer, and accompanying my dad in this journey, has taught me the most. I learned the greatest lesson of humility and a great deal about our humanity.
While our society is sickly preoccupied by performance, perfection, success and power, I am confronted with my mother’s loss of autonomy, loss of cognitive abilities. I am in a perpetual grieving process looking for connection, human touch at its simplest expression without a mask, reaching for belonging.
I feel the closest to her I’ve ever been, without words, just my mother’s laughter. The nursing staff call her Madam Smiley. The life of those who have a disability are the ones I long to embrace.
My mother is unable to care for herself, she fully depends on others for basic health care, including using the toilet, and her difficulty communicating with words distresses me. Her smile, her laughter, overcome everything.
As I experience and adapt to a new way of being with my mother with little conversation I find the human face, the raw emotions that brings us closer and provide a sense of deep care. My more caring ‘I’ rejects the idea of my mother being reduced to her incapacities.
She challenges me by her existence afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. In a society driven by performance, some people wonder if people like her have a quality of life, deserve a place in our society.
I say we need to celebrate their human dignity. She has alerted me to the value of living in the here and now. Every time I am in my mother’s presence, I feel the here and now. I am at peace in a place where body language is very much the means for communicating our sense of belonging together.
I want to celebrate the many faces of human dignity. I want to share the people who have inspired me with their courage, determination and joy of life even when confronted with challenges. I wish to help build a society where everyone could have access to palliative care at the end of life when needed.
The following slideshow is a celebration of some of the people who have inspired me a great deal:
Linda Couture is Director of Living with Dignity / Vivre dans la Dignitéa grassroots initiative promoting palliative care and and alternatives to euthanasia and assisted suicide. http://www.vivredignite.blogspot.com/
Note: I am releasing individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012? on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Jacques Dufresne, Linda Perry, Rchard Bridge and many others. You can access the accumulated essays here.
NOTE: Linda Couture's mother Carmen Lévesque Couture passed away recently. Here are Linda's reflections.
I would just like to let you all know that my mother passed away peacefully and joyfully early on the morning of January 27, 2012. Throughout my work with Living With Dignity, she was the source of my inspiration and gave me my energy, my strength and courage to anchor my actions in reality. My mother was a devoted wife, a woman of action who was nicknamed “The Bee” for her hard work, who was always welcoming, smiling and ready to meet any challenge. She was there to help and to give unconditionally.
I was determined to accompany her to the end with the collaboration of the care team at the Centre Paul-Gilbert long-term health care facility in Charny, Quebec. She was wonderfully cared for by the staff, night and day. I wanted to ensure that she left us naturally, with dignity and without unnecessary medical intervention. Mission accomplished. She is now free from her weakened body though her soul remains ever present. She continues her work in a way that can be an inspiration to us all.
What a mysterious and inspiring experience it was for me to live the last moments before she departed. I felt so honored to be a witness and to receive the gift that she shared with me as she left this world for another, where I know she will continue her work. I will never forget her gaze, her remarkable, enchanting eyes. She was radiant and happy to be welcomed among those who have gone before and who she loved so unconditionally. She was never closer or more present to me than at that moment. The experience is the concrete proof of the mystery of death. She died not only peacefully but smiling, even laughing.