My final week of caregiving arrives next week. Burt, my current client, has had many turbulent days fraught with manic and angry and hallucinatory bouts of willfulness. Caregiving for him has been a great lesson in patience, surrender and humility.
Then, an amazing grace episode of 5 minutes happened. The impact was so potent that all of the difficulties and challenges of the previous two years were washed away and assuaged.
On Friday last week, Burt was sound asleep on his lounger. During his respite, I was silently chanting a mantra, in a thought-free and natural state of peace. Burt opened his eyes, awakening though most likely not recognizing that his current surroundings even differed from the nocturnal-like dream version taking place during his nap.
He began to stand up. I quickly grabbed his walker and placed it in front of him without a word. Instead of standing, he receded back into his lounger.
Then, what can be described as some kind of interactive dream sequence took place.
I stood near him, my left arm very close to the left front side of his limited visual field. No words were coming out of my mouth or his. I simply stood there smiling down at him. He never looked up at me but suddenly became fascinated with my left hand and forearm. Delicately, with his soft hands, he took my forearm into his grasp. He began to pluck the sides of my lower arm, moving incrementally, inch by inch up the arm. He was plucking notes, my arm turning into a violin neck, my ulnar and radius bones the strings.
Our silent communion continued. After finishing with my left arm, he took the right one and began his playing yet again. Then back to the left arm; now to the left hand. Soon my lower leg was being strummed.
I had become a living human-stringed instrument, albeit one with no actual strings, various bones playing substitute and creating subtle vibrational sounds, both internally and externally. Communicating the feeling in my heart at the time, hmm, what comes closest is the experience when a dog profusely licks your arm and love pours through as the living presence of God’s Grace.
Burt was like some kind of hallucinating shaman orchestrating a symphonic healing. All the days of compassionate caregiving offered to him were returned to me. Two years worth in those 5 minutes, a karmic payback of exquisite tenderness.
During the entire episode no words were exchanged, nor did any thoughts come.
After 5 minutes, I slipped over to a table to get a drink. I then brought Burt some water in a small spill-proof stainless steel glass with an attached straw.
He took a sip of the ice water, then looked up with a beatific smile that spoke more than any words ever could.