I am not sure I have words to describe how much your gifts and messages have meant to Connie. When I met her a few months ago, the room was dark, the door closed, her head down, lost in a TV or a book. She took to Red right away and he took to her, and today, I see the soul and spirit of a person reborn, or at least, revealed.
She has made a new friend, Maria, and it has affected them both. Above, Connie has just received the New Year's gift sent to every resident of the Mansion by the Idaho artist Keena Ogg.
Maria was telling her about Kenna's quilts.
I don't wish to take credit for this, she lights up when she sees Red, and there may be many other things going on in Connie's life that I don't know about. Your gifts and messages have been the most important tonic for her.
Connie seems almost radiant sometimes, alert, busy making things with the bushels of yarn she has received, she says she is so busy reading letters and crocheting mittens for the staff she does not have time to read her mysteries.Your generosity has given her a warm and continuous focus on life.
She noticed Maria's leggings and asked where they came from, and she looked at me and winked. Maria has a gift for listening and connecting, I can testify to this. Connie is very much at ease with her. Red listens carefully to them both.
I told her that Maria bought a vacuum cleaner for the first time in her life, and she laughed harder than I had ever heard her laugh when I told her Maria would never use it, she does not vacuum.
Connie and Red have a powerful connection, but lately another very poignant friendship has developed, this one between Connie and Maria, between two fiber artists who have spent years making art out of fabric. Connie also sold her fiber works.
When Maria comes to visit, she kneels down on the floor so Connie doesn't have to lift her head, which can be painful, and the two talk so easily and openly I am just taken aback. Connie never talked so easily with me.
When this happens, I step back and stand out in the hallway, I leave Connie and Red and Maria to be together, to talk. They talk about yarn, selling things, were ideas come from, Maria tells Connie about her work, and every time they meet, Connie has more questions for Maria about her work.
Increasingly, they talk about life.
I see a smile and engagement on Connie's face that I did not see before, a ready smile and a light within. This is especially striking to me when Maria and Red are in the room.
I suppose friendships can grow anywhere, but in the Mansion, I have some to see the importance or reaching out to brush the souls and spirits of people on the edge of life, to listen to them and remind them that they are not forgotten, they are important, they have things to say that people wish to hear.
More than anything, they need to feel known and not forgotten by the world. That is your gift to them. It is profoundly healing.
It was in my hospice work that I learned the principle of active listening – of truly listening to people, not pretending to listen. It is a tonic, as healthy as any medication or procedure. Connie has two new friends at least, not counting me, and I often see the magic that passes between women who are friends in the way they can talk to easily to one another.
As I mentioned earlier, and in response to your queries, I think Valentine's day would be another time to focus on the residents for people who wish to continue the extraordinary dialogue we have unexpectedly begun with these people, many of whom feel quite forgotten by the world.
If you wish to contact them or send them messages or gifts, you can send them to The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Valentine's gifts and messages can be held until February by the staff if people wish.