A few days after Christmas 2002, I drove my mother to hospice. She wanted to make the decision of when to leave the home she had loved and raised her her family in for more than 30 years. Our home was not large or extravagant but every stick of furniture carried a story – heirlooms from her family’s farm or pieces she had refinished herself. She spent months working on a needlepoint cover for the piano bench and every spring she planted geraniums by the front door and tomatoes, rhubarb and flowers in the back yard.
But on the day I drove her to hospice she taught me the most valuable lesson of all. I stopped halfway down the driveway and asked if she wanted to take one last look. Dry-eyed and without emotion she said, “It’s just a roof with a bunch of stuff under it.” I was stunned. All of her possessions – the antiques, grandma’s china and her well-seasoned, cast iron roasting pot – were now just “stuff” to her.
A couple of years later, when I fell into the deepest, darkest depression I had ever known, I learned that lesson again. “Stuff is just stuff.” All the pretty things I owned and all the pretty things I thought I needed to make me happy lost their value. The priceless things in life were not things. Health and happiness were all I wanted.
And it is with that spirit that I write these suggestions. No tangible item – no matter how much you spend – can lift someone from a deep, deep depression. Give the gift of genuine, sincere concern. Do something to show your friend how much her health and happiness mean to you. Some of you have already made suggestions in the last blog I posted. I ask you now, please share more ideas. Here are some of mine.
1. A phone call, email, text or visit to let them know you care. Your friend with depression may not respond and you will find yourself taking to a voice mailbox or pressing the “SEND” button on your phone not knowing whether you will get a reply. Do it anyway. Do it more than once.
2. Take care of the little things. When we are depressed the little things pile up. All those little things make us feel like losers. We beat ourselves up for not being able to do the simplest tasks: laundry, dishes and, yes, even bills. I’m not saying you have to pay their bills but don’t let the mail and newspapers stack up in the mailbox or by the front door. Don’t let a mountain of mail grow on the dining room table. Offer to segregate the junk mail from the vital mail, then offer to help them write checks. Provide the stamps they need, even volunteer to go to the post office.
3. Shovel the driveway. Bring them a cup of hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. Bring them Christmas dinner if they refuse your invitation to your home. Clean out the fridge. Buy a few groceries. Take out the garbage. Hang a bird feeder outside the window where they sit and stare and keep that bird feeder full of seed. Walk their dog. Clean out the kitty litter box.
These are the gifts that mean something. These are the gifts that are precious.
I am sure you can share more. Please do.
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Last reviewed: 14 Dec 2011