Finding Beauty in Small Things

The title for my first blog post of 2015 may sound like a pitch announcing some new small paintings but it’s about a non art subject of when an aging parent and a child experience a role reversal and finding beauty in small things. I write the first draft and final post for this blog entry sitting in a hospital room watching over my Mother who was admitted the beginning of the new year. Without going into details as to her condition she’s reached a point in her life where she is totally dependent upon others to tend to her needs and has been so for some time. Sadly its a situation that is all too common of an experience for most of us at some point in our lives.

I can’t help but think back to a time where I have a vague memory of my Mother feeding me in a high chair, coaxing me to eat some new Gerber Baby food. I’m pretty sure I wanted cherries and not carrots. But she generally succeeded in getting me to eat. I also know she took care of me when I was sick and reassured me when I was afraid and that things were going to be OK. Now as I patiently feed her here in the hospital I can’t help but ponder how our roles of being a caregiver have reversed and much of what she did for me when I was young is now being given back in similar ways.

Some dear friends of ours stopped by at the hospital to visit and at one point I interrupted our conversation to provide my Mother with some water through a straw. As I turned back around almost all had tears in their eyes as it brings to mind memories of their own parents.

For those of us who have either experienced giving care to an aging parent or perhaps are already doing so, the process can be difficult for both parties. However, one trait of an artist is that they often go about finding beauty in small things endeavoring to see more than the obvious and at times like this it’s a beneficial trait in trying to remain positive in difficult circumstances, not just when it applies to art.

At one point my Mother opened her eyes and looking at me with eyes of recognition she gave a great big smile and started to laugh, but the expression of laughter turned to that of a cry. Perhaps she experienced an awareness towards her condition or other fear which she could not verbalize. I calmly reassured her that everything was OK and as for the rest of the family we are all in different places but that me and my wife were there. I also gave a simple explanation as to why she didn’t feel good, and all that hospital stuff was to help her feel better. The explanation seemed to soothe her and as they brought her lunch tray into the room I began the process of feeding her. She ate better than she had since arriving in the hospital. Yes, a measure of beauty in a small thing.

True, the obvious, may not always look good, but the small things such as being able to reassure her, bring a smile, bolster her will, even singing to her are small priceless moments. For me one of those priceless moments was yesterday when something made my Mother start sneezing one right after the other. First you have to understand that she has lost the ability of conveying understandable speech except for a word or two such as NO! However, she found another word to express her annoyance after about the 9th sneeze that was understandable.  It was a funny moment coming from a 72 pound frail woman.

Sure, there are sacrifices, I’m away from the easel and painting for a time, but parents too sacrificed for their children when they were in need. Also just as parents didn’t do everything right in taking care of us and in retrospect I realize I could have done some things better.  I recall reading an article years ago, that had the title: From the Cradle to the Grave, the Greatest Need is Love. Even without the article the title speaks volumes.

So, if you one day find yourself in the role of a caregiver whether to a greater or lesser degree, remember that as you go about giving your care, govern it with the principle of love and in the process you will see beyond the obvious and will see the beauty in small things. It’s a priceless reward.

In ways of practicality I found this article which considered the following three points:

  • How can parents and their adult children prepare for “the days of distress”?
  • When may parents need more help from their children?
  • What practical help can you give to someone who is caring for an elderly parent?

Thanks for reading.

12 thoughts on “Finding Beauty in Small Things

  1. Katalin Luczay

    Thank you for sharing about your Mom. Hope she is doing better. I am at the other side of the story being 72 my kids are at times concerned about me. My fear often is that maybe I will put too much burden on them. So far I am still relatively healthy. One may have another taught, will I still have more time to learn and give as a better artist? I love your paintings.
    Katalin Luczay

    1. whartist Post author

      From the sound of it I’d say you’re 72 years young and I’m glad you still have a good measure of health. I know it’s natural for a parent to feel they don’t want to burden their children, but I know you’d probably never think it a burden if you were assisting one of your children if they were going through a health issue. It’s good that your children show concern and from the sound of it they want to help and that my dear was probably because you taught them well. So don’t be afraid to let them if they’re willing. In my opinion it’s always a good idea to express your desires and concerns before the need arises. No matter what our age is, circumstances can change and it’s good to discuss these things so everyone is all on the same page.

      As for your other question, about learning more as an artist I say go for it. I looked at your website and I think you’re doing well. Renowned American Folk Artist Anna Mary Robertson more commonly known as Grandma Moses didn’t start painting earnestly until she was 78 and you’re already going strong. One of her paintings was auctioned in 2006 which sold for over a million dollars. True that won’t happen to everyone, but nonetheless her story can inspire anyone who may think they’re too old to start or who want to improve upon their art.

      As an update, my Mother is now out of the hospital, but still frail, but as I was replying to your comment, I received a phone call from the nursing home and was encouraged to hear the report that she ate well for lunch. That indeed was good news, because when I tried to feed her this morning she was still too sleepy to eat very much. Thank you for commenting and to all those who have. It was an encouragement to me.

    1. whartist Post author

      I’m so glad to hear that Terrye. It’s something you won’t regret knowing you did your best and you’re still able to build good memories even when times turn difficult.

  2. Victoria MacFarlane

    It’s wonderful that you’re flooding your mother with love in her senior years. My husband and I moved to Breckenridge to care for my elderly parents so they would be able to stay in their home and be with their friends. My father died 9 months after we moved here at 90 years old. It was wonderful being with him those last months of his life. My mother, now 93, is still a trooper! She’s survived a broken hip and pneumonia this past year. She’s still driving (scary), plays bridge twice a week and exercises 3 times a week, but needs help in many other ways. We try and love on her as much as possible, but know the time will come when she’ll need more help. I’m glad God has given us this opportunity to give back to someone who cared for us as we grew up.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on being a caregiver. You’re right, it’s not always convenient or easy, but neither was growing up.

    1. whartist Post author

      Thanks Victoria. Wonderful that your Mother is still active and glad that you get to have her near you. For many years I taught art classes at a senior center during almost all my 20’s and part of my 30’s. It was like being surrounded by multiple Grandma’s. I had one lady who I thought was very elegant and she never looked her age even when reaching nearly 100. She remained active up until the last and was a delight to have in class. Most from that art group have now passed away, but I had a blast with them and a lot of fond memories.

  3. Betty Smith

    Isn’t it amazing how the little things can mean so much? After my Mom had her stroke, I brought her some gardenias from her yard. One of the last things she did that was typical of her behavior from years past was to gather the gardenias in her hands and bring them to her nose. When my husband I were married the following year, I carried a single gardenia to keep Mom with me at my wedding. I also have some starts from her gardenia bushes growing in my yard. Gardenias will always remind me of my Mom. I know it’s a little thing, but it opens the door to all sorts of memories. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Take good care of yourself, too!
    Betty Smith

    1. whartist Post author

      Ah Gardenias! They have such a beautiful fragrance and what a beautiful memory to go along with it. Thank you for sharing that. Next time the Gardenias are in bloom you’ll have to share a photo of them! I’m afraid I don’t have a green thumb. I walk past a plant and they wilt.

  4. Marcella

    Thank you Bill for your beautiful words and thoughts. I’m sorry your mother is not doing well. I wish every offspring would feel the way you do about caring for their parent. Unfortunately, many do not. Your mother is as lucky to have you as you have been to have her.

    Love, Marcella

    1. whartist Post author

      Hi Marcella,
      Yes it’s sad when a parents offspring fail them in later life. I’m at the nursing home almost everyday and in regards to the other residents I rarely see any family members and I go at different times. I certainly can’t judge because I don’t know the circumstances and some may be limited in health as well, but for those who are able bodied…well what goes around comes around as the saying goes for those who think it too inconvenient to honor their parents. Even if a family relationship was strained, perhaps it can be an opportunity to heal old emotional wounds and repair a relationship before time runs out.

  5. Cindy Johnson

    Hi Bill,

    Many thanks, Friend for sharing your wonderfully touching words on your experience caring for your beloved mother. What a wonderful thing to know that depth of love and warmth for one who has been such an important part of your life. I am overjoyed that you have a wife by your side to help you through this difficult but meaningful time.

    I wish you all the Very Best. Kind Regards,


    1. whartist Post author

      Thank you Cindy. I appreciate your comments and yes my wife has been a support in helping to look after my Mother. She bought her some warm fleece garments and booties to keep her comfortable and she’s good at finding bargains in the process.


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