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What Value?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 12, 2021 08:21

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Times of traumatic change force us to re-evaluate our systems of value, our relations, our ties.

We had to move my mother, two months before her 100th birthday, to a new frail care facility. The retirement center where she had planned to end her days is closing down, its business plan did not take into account the reality of demographic and economic change. What would have been a difficult move was made harder by bungling and ill-conceived assistance which left her traumatized and disoriented. 

At my house, trying to calm her down and reassure her, she kept reminding us of her valuable book collection. Most of her few pieces of jewelry had been stolen over the years, but her books, my father's precious theological books... My son called, then we set up a Skype connection and she conversed with her great-grandchildren. The change was instantaneous. Suddenly she had a foundation, a base and a purpose. Calls to the other great grandchildren followed. 

A wealth of love, of family, of memories. Author's photo

The new facility is expensive, situated in a pleasant suburb of mostly retirement developments. Here communities quietly spend their accumulated pension savings, pottering about in gardens and walking their dogs. We settled my mother in a comfortable room with pleasant staff and her most familiar belongings. Some books await a suitable bookshelf, although she cannot really read anymore due to macular degeneration and glaucoma. Some of her paintings must be selected and hung.
Going through her things did not reveal much of real value. Apart from a number of books by almost forgotten theologians, we found books dedicated to her by friends, one she gifted my father decades ago, and one to my father by an uncle and aunt. And many, many albums, sketchbooks, and many half-completed artworks. A small box with letters from my father when he studied overseas, one was asking her to join him and marry him in far-off Switzerland, and a journal describing her voyage by steamer, one describing their early years together...
The real treasures are in the memories, the love that permeates everything she touched. The family photos, the drawings by grandchildren and great-grandchildren over the years. The drawings of trees, flowers, nature.

Unfinished art, unsigned painting. Author's photo

We have much to do, rebuilding a new life for her, restoring memories and links. Already she sat with her nurses, telling them stories, trying to converse with them in their mother tongues. And there, perhaps, is the value - the love and linkage with other people, the mutual trust and support. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 12, 2021 08:21

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Source: N4G

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