Friday, December 19, 2014

Remembering Past Christmases As We Make New Memories

     On December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, we were talking with my Mom about the Remembrance Ceremony.  At 84, Mom lived thru that time and it is a part of her live.  I was born long after Pearl Harbor and only know it from history books.  But Mom lived thru those events, she was a part of that era and that history! 

     Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that our elderly loved ones grew up in a very different world than we did.  Listening to Mom share her thoughts and memories of World War II gave the historical event a different perspective for me.  It also made me realize that her memories and her oral history will die with her.  I have been trying to make a conscious effort to talk with her about how life was when she was a child and put those memories down in our family records for her great-grandchildren to read, for they will not know her even as she is now, let alone when she was a young woman.

     Caregiver and family member, if you are not already in the habit of talking with your loved one about their childhood and early life, this Christmas would be a great time to start! You both may find it awkward at first, but it is so worth the effort!  

     A video of that elderly person sharing their thoughts and memories will be priceless once they are gone!  If you don't have access to a video recorder or a tape recorder, just jot down as much as you can and then transcribe it into a written account of the story.  Then, if you are able, you can go back with the loved one and have them fill in the areas you missed or confused.  

    A vital thing I have learned in doing this with my Mom is to create an atmosphere where she doesn't feel threatened, vulnerable, or ridiculed as she shares with us.  If she cries, she cries - and that's OK, too!  Even the strong are not strong all of the time!  

     The important thing is to let them talk, let them share, and let them remember!  I still carry the regret of being uninterested in my Grandmother's stories about the family and her younger days.  I was too young to realize the richness of her memories and when she died, I had lost every opportunity to learn from her.  Now I long to talk with her, but can't!  

     A note here for those involved with an elderly loved one that doesn't want to discuss their past: DON"T PUSH IT! Don't make an issue out of it!  If their memories are painful or not something they want to share, just let it go!  The confrontation, even with the best of intentions, isn't always the right thing to do.  Pray for wisdom here!  

     Today is the time we have with our loved ones.  We make new memories with them, but must never overlook the richness of their past!  Christmas is rich with traditions and the perfect time to start another one - even sharing your own memories of your favorite Christmas, you best Christmas, you good times!  And sharing those memories helps us to remember things that we might forget.

  Have a blessed and Merry Christmas, Caregiver! Remember that you are loved with an everlasting love!  Stay on your knees, and keep looking up!