I have had the privilege to work for a woman named Helen Stewart. She was one of the most fascinating people I have ever known, not to mention a unique boss. This came from the dignity she presented in the simple life she led. Although Helen had a disease that limited her dialogue, she could communicate better than most people.
She was very clear on what she wanted and where she was headed. I learned so much from her. She was a great example of how one should cherish life and enjoy every moment. Helen did not let her disease stop her from living the best way she knew how. Her desire for bingo, Wii bowling and long car rides kept her days filled with joy and challenges.
Thankfully, Helen raised her son Tom to have that same respect and joy for life that she did. Tom and his loving wife Karen were able to provide Helen with the greatest quality of care during her last years. They sent five women to spend time and befriend Helen. I was one of those five. If only I could have video taped some of our fun days together. She would make me laugh harder than girlfriends my own age.
It was her natural personality that brought laughter to me. She knew who she liked and who she didn’t. This was a great lesson she taught me. You can respect others but its ok not to like them. Everyone that came in contact with Helen found her to be adorable.
The “Helen Experience” made me realize that this is how I may want to spend more of my time. She opened my eyes to living a no bull$%^& life. There was a safe haven around Helen because she was a survivor of many sorts throughout her life. The “Helen yearn” to go and do, became quite contagious! I referred to my workdays as “Helening,” although “Helening” was hardly working, it was fun. Some of the things we did together were radical in the sense of an Alzheimer’s patient. But Helen never let that disease stop her spirit, and she was up for almost anything as long as it involved driving in the car. Here is a snapshot of some of my days “Helening”: