The rich, full life of Alice Bottea-Paul
ESCANABA — Your arms now hold the person who once held you.
Your hands now lift the person who once helped to raise you up.
Your legs now steady the person who taught you to walk.
You now dry the tears and comfort the one whom once comforted you.
You now feed the person who once fed you.
You now settle the distress of bad dreams of the one who once settled them for you.
Such is the transformation for those of us who become the caregiver of a parent. I had the opportunity, as probably many others do, to be able to spend time almost every day with my mom at a local nursing home. In the nursing home, even at 98.5 years old, she would often join me while I would write my articles. She, in turn, would write letters to both friends and relatives (both in the USA and in Italy). Oftentimes, her handwritten letters to Italy were in Italian.
One of the defining characteristics of my mom was her deep, abiding faith in the Lord. This faith carried her through the deepest of sad times in burying all of my three siblings at various ages (newborn, age 22, and age 65). It also sustained her in dealing with her mental depression for decades. Through all of this, her faith served as her anchor in life.
Her strong sense of family and values tied generations together. Her examples of loving one another, being honest, and helping those less fortunate have made meaningful differences not only with family, but with friends and all who encountered her.
It was always one of her dreams to connect our family in the USA with our relatives in Italy. This has been accomplished, as they have traveled over here and spent time with us, and we have done likewise. In fact, I will be traveling to Italy (a trip my mother helped me to plan) with my son and a friend. So, this dream has been fulfilled.
She also left us with family history in the form of letters and photographs, along with explanations and stories to accompany the photographs from relatives in both the USA and Italy. Additionally, she wrote the story of her life and researched her family tree, with dates all the way back to 1450.
The last days of her life were hard, but death came quickly and quietly. Some of her last words to me were, “Dan, I have to die sometime. Thanks for being here.” So, as she was breathing her last breath, I kissed her forehead and said in Italian, “Te amo tanto” which means, “I love you a lot.” And then, I whispered what would have been her response, which was, “Anche io”, which means “And I as well”. I explained to her that my three siblings were waiting for her along with her husband, her father and mother, and other relatives and friends that had long passed away. I also told her that I will be OK and that in time I’ll be along.
So, the same could be said for many of us all. For those of you whose parent or parents are still alive, make the time to spend with them. If amends need to be made, make it a top priority. Time spent together near life’s end is always time well-spent no matter the circumstances.
In remembrance of my mother, Alice Bottea-Paul (Oct. 9, 1918 to March 16, 2017), who lived a rich, full life.
Dan Paul is a retired school administrator. His columns, which explore relationships, are published monthly in Lifestyles. Comments may be submitted at meaningfuldifferences.net.