What I experienced in humankind especially elders is they love sunshine too, just like all of us. No matter their maladies, if they get into the sunshine they feel better.
One of my first clients, Ruth, was just one such lady. She was so sweet. She was suffering from depression as she was slowly going blind. She had gone through several eye surgeries and was losing her vision. I’m pretty good with people and know I could get her out of her shell if I tried. I succeeded to some extent. I learned a lot about her through family members and herself. We had many conversations. She was very caring and was seriously old school. Her true passion and pride had come in her roles as mother and housewife. In her case I would exalt her to Home Queen because that was faithfully what she was. One of her favorite duties was cooking. She loved it and did quite well. In fact as the years had gone by the extended family called on her to be the hostess and cook of all family activities. She could have easily put a Banquet Manager to shame. In honor and respect for all she did her husband and family had gifted her with a double stove. She had always wanted one and was off and running. When Ruth cooked it was really the way many generations of women had cooked. It was traditional, meticulous, time consuming and from scratch. She gave me amazing advice on how to cook. When she started falling into a low I would ask her how to cook the chicken breasts. This changed her chain of thought. I assured her she still had a lot to contribute.
So, this is leading to sunshine. However there are some precursors to Ruth’s story. Ruth was extremely low so it wasn’t an immediate goal to get her into the sunshine. I couldn’t imagine the stress she was experiencing. In some ways she had lost the roles that made her feel valued, gave her purpose. Then on top of that she was losing her sight. That must have been hard.
The other thing Ruth enjoyed very much was listening to music. She was a huge fan of classical. I dusted off the record player and brought out her favorites. Of course this took some coaxing. So I worked diligantly to have her “let me” play records. After all it was still her house. She loved the music.
Then came our sun-filled times outdoors. For me to talk Ruth into going outdoors was like pulling teeth. She was afraid she would fall down. I assured her I would not allow her to fail. I kept my word. So we would sit in the backyard and let the sun embrace us with its warm rays. Sometimes I would explain what birds I could see since she was not able to see them fully. Her husband Roy usually would take a nap while we sat in the hard. Slowly these became her most favorite and enjoyable times we shared. It was a thrill to see her smile and laugh again.
Another client of mine was June. June was a sweet, petite, retired school teacher. She had gone through many health challenges and for a short time lost her ability to walk. I held great compassion for her. She’d lost her husband, her memory was fading fast, and just about everything. Any time I could I would wheel her out into the sunshine, she would smile so big and wide. That warmed my heart. She was aglow. She knew a lot about flowers and we wheeled around the nursing home she would identify the flowers and tell me about them. Sometimes it would take a little coaxing to get her outside yet once there the sun blessed our day.
Another lady I’ll call Maxie, loved to go for walks and then sit in the sun. We would walk around her apartment complex and sit on the bench, letting the sun give us love. Although our escapades were often short on time, they were still to be treasured, just like a good piece of chocolate from your Halloween bag.
Now Eileen, was another sweet client of mine. She was a retired school teacher as well. She was warm, bubbly, funny and a hard charger. By the time I stepped in, she had slowed down some and I was happy to do what I could to assist her. She was a real delight to be around. She had come from a blue collar family that had worked hard. When I was with Eileen, she treated me like a sister. She was a real gem. She had a spacious and inviting independent suite apartment that was right next to a lush garden. Very often we would walk in the garden. Eileen knew a lot about trees and flowers. She would explain them to me by species, what light they needed and so on. I also helped her maintain her plants as well. We both used to get thrilled watching the birds visit their nearby next. Eileen and I would spend a great deal of time outdoors. We would sit in the sun periodically yet did not want to overdo it as we were both fair skinned. Oftentimes we would have breakfast on her front patio. We received some sunshine but not too much. We would drink our coffee or tea together.
Flo was a joy to be around. She had a giddy cute laugh and was old fashioned country. She and I really hit it off. Flo had difficulty walking independently and was a fall risk. She had taken a fall once and never forgot. She held herself back more than anyone, however I loved to oblige Flo. When I worked with her she got whatever she wanted including a home cooked meal complete with eggs and bacon. Of course I would drink coffee with her. We would sit at her kitchen table and look outside at her most amazing back yard. It was stunning and right next to Mother Nature dear. I was usually with Flo for a short time. Once essentials were taken care of, we would sit outside in the sun, weather depending. We would sit on her front porch and occasionally we would do some walking with assistance. It was lovely sitting on the porch admiring the birds and hearing her stories of old, there were so many. She used to work in a factory and told me all about it.
Donna was a kindred spirit. She and I were like twins and had fun times together. She taught me how to pack a vegetable drawer in the refrigerator the proper way. She was only a few earth years older than me and had a mouth like a sailor. I liked her already. Sadly, Donna had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is a fast growing cancer. She had not had her female exams and by the time doctors found it it was too late. So I took Donna to chemo, cleaned her house and cooked food for husband as I was in the home primarily for him. Cooking Donna’s way was a hard act to follow, so I would follow her instructions to the tee. She was a bad mammer jammer. Potatoes cooked the German way, as her hubby liked them. So it was tough times. I tried to make Donna laugh as it is hard to know what to say in a situation like that. We watched funny movies and I would pick up her groceries. I learned a lot from her. So due to her fast moving cancer, we would often sit out on her patio in the summer heat. She had to wear a big hat as she could not be in direct heat. Yet it gave her tremendous pleasure, as did me to get her out in the sun as she drank her light vodka drinks. She became an angel in heaven and I never forgot her. She had a very simple service in the Catholic fashion that I remember was quite eerie. She did not have a lot of visitors and her brother, whom she had not spoken to in thirteen, years showed up. Awkward! I was unable to make it to her bedside for her final moments and yes I will be honest there was some real fear there yet I know she knew I loved her and cared for her. Every time I watch “Paul” the movie I think of her.
Sun helps us all in so many ways. I mean you can even observe a cat basking in it to know there is some healing going on. It repairs our cells, brings us joy, warms our body and sometimes brings back old fond memories. The sun is beautiful. The sun is free and the sun is ours when we want to enjoy it.