It was a privilege to give the keynote address on Dignity in Caregiving at the Hawaii AARP conference yesterday. The poetry writing workshop I conducted after giving the address led to very deep probing by caregivers. Those who have attended my sessions in the past are familiar with my one blade of grass to get ink on paper. One caregiver discovered as she wrote, that her mother was the blade of grass.
Following is an email from Linda Nagata, a former caregiver- member of my poetry writing support group in Honolulu.
Aloha FOF (Friends of Frances),
It was my honor to attend the above conference yesterday and hear our favorite keynote speaker. Frances, in her boa, once again had the crowd spellbound. You could have heard a pin drop in the conference room. She read her poems and talked about caring for her mother -and even things I had never heard her talk about before. It is always emotional to hear her, and as usual there were tears in my eyes. Frances truly does a great service for other caregivers by letting them know what they are thinking, feeling and doing all have value.
Frances inspired me to come home and read more of our poems from Breaking the Silence. I still laugh over Elaine’s “More Glimpses of a Daughter and Mother”,and Jason’s always are so deeply felt and thought out. It has now been 21 years since my mother departed. Last night was the first time I was able to read my own poems and not cry. Imagine – 21 years it has taken me to get to this point! At least I have reached it, and I consider that an accomplishment.
Thanks Frances for all the encouragement along this bumpy road.
Care giving, as Linda points out, does not end when our loved ones are gone. Linda explains this in her poem written after attending our poetry support group.
She came notebook and pen in hand
To lead me out of my morose state,
Encouraging, cajoling, insisting
Write, write, write.
Others spoke of current dilemmas, emotions.
I was stuck in the past —a dozen years gone by.
“Why am I so emotionally delayed?” my mind asked.
Then the wiser voice said, learn and move on.
Sensei says write, write, write,
Write about one small thing
I try to focus on one small thing
Dredging up the aged memories
Like buried garbage they are not pleasant,
Helplessness, anger, resentment.
Write, write, write
A miracle happens
The bitter emotions, softened, turn
Into acceptance and peace.
Write, write, write.
By Linda Nagata: from Breaking the Silence: A Caregiver’s Voice
Linda, after exploring her grief through poetry, left the group saying she was now ready to move on. It looks like she finally did.