Cherish our relationships and find purpose in service to others
Contemplating one’s life purpose is a profound journey. Some find it early on, while others spend a lifetime searching for it.
I've come to believe that purpose often exists not only in grand missions, but in small gestures empowered by an open heart.
Influencing millions may be exhilarating, but what if our destiny is to bring happiness or change to the life of just one person? My husband, Bill, often reminds me: "It's not quantity, it's quality."
Returning from a winter in Asia last March, I took a direct flight to San Francisco to visit my mom.
To my shock, she was a mere shadow of her sweet and kind self. She was aggressive, slept little, and was sometimes impossible to manage.
At 3am, she was pacing her room repeating that she had to go home to Siberia. She wanted to break a window and go out to the street.
It did not matter that she was on a high floor. I couldn't comprehend this drastic transformation.
"Where is my mom?" I asked myself. "I want her back!”
I was hopelessly crying at night. People with Alzheimer's are often very sensitive and react emotionally.
They are like small children. They can't explain that something is wrong, and they can only react in defence.
What had happened to my mom? I soon found out. Her caregiver had been ignoring her, verbally abusing her and not taking her on her daily walks.
The person I trusted turned out to be a monster. She demanded more money, and claimed my mom was too challenging to care for.
When I looked deeper into my mother’s finances, I realised the “caregiver” was stealing from my mom’s pension.
I immediately began searching for a new, more professional caregiver, and it was a miracle that I soon found Tuya, a Mongolian woman fluent in Russian and a graduate of one of the best Russian economic universities.
When she emigrated to the USA, she trained for the demanding and difficult job of caring for Alzheimer's patients.
I left my mother in Tuya’s capable hands. She had come with fine recommendations from people I trusted.
Last month, visiting my mother revealed a remarkable and wonderful change. She was smiling, relaxed, and sleeping well.
When I took her for a walk, we passed a street musician. She began to dance and her happiness was so infectious several passers-by joined her.
It was adorable! My mother had started a spontaneous party on the streets!
It was all Tuya's doing; her gentle and caring touch transformed my mom. Tuya told me she treats my mom like her own mother, a sentiment echoed by my mother’s doctor, who praised Tuya for her outstanding care of his relatives.
One day, I asked Tuya why she hadn't pursued a career in the business world? Her response was a lesson in love and values.
"Nina, when my mom was alive, I was a young girl caught up in my own life. I neglected her. I regret that deeply.
“Now, I care for the elderly, staying with them until the end. I ask them to tell my mom in heaven that I love her and I am very sorry I didn't show her my love in this life.
“I have come to understand that caring for people is my destiny, my purpose. I really love doing it."
Her calm demeanour and profound words brought me to tears. This strong woman, through her quiet every day and night dedication, imparted a lesson I'll carry with me for ever.
Her work is a powerful reminder to cherish our relationships, and find purpose in service to others.
Five days a week, my mother attends a senior’s programme where caregivers take a small group to the park or the beach where they exercise together and enjoy the sunshine.
It’s a free programme offered by the city government. My mother enjoys the gentle exercise, but she has noticed a man who is too frail to participate.
Each day she goes and sits with him, quietly holding his hand. I can tell he loves my mother.
Like Tuya, my mother has not forgotten compassion.
• Nina London is the founder of Mermaid Wellness Centre for Women and a certified Chi Gong and Laughter Yoga teacher. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their bodies and minds. Contact her at ninalondon.com and on Instagram: @coachninalondon