At the Mansion Assisted Care Facility, where they think of all you benefactors as mysterious and miraculous angels, someone asks me almost every day "will you forget us? Will they forget us?"
It's a difficult question for me to answer.
I don't know most of you, I have never met most of you or spoken with most of you, or even heard from most of you, I don't know what your energy and interest and resources are like, I don't know what your commitment or attention span to this work is, and it is not my business, it is yours to decide for yourselves.
Sometimes, they ask me "who sent us this? Who wrote this letter? Who are they? What are they like? I don't know, I say, I don't know who they are, I know there are good people out there, and they care about you.
You have already done much more than anyone else ever has for these people, and they are mystified and perhaps afraid it will go away, all of these letters and messages and photos and cards, this feeling of being known and cared for outside of the walls of the Mansion, an especially loving place.
You mean so much to them, you are mystical fairies and angels, they can hardly believe it, and most of the residents are not used to being cared for so much. Many have been forgotten, they expect it. They constantly share your letters and messages, save them by their bedsides, share them with each other, keep them in boxes.
I have a history of burning out from things like this, I had to leave hospice work for several years because I overdid it, saw too many people, watched too many people die, I had to stop for awhile. I've learned to be more careful. One of the residents wants me to be a private tutor, I said no, it's too much, I don't have time, I will just have to walk away.
So I pace myself, limit myself, and yet this work with the Mansion is different.
They feel like my family now, I have come to know and love many of them, they share their ups and downs with me (one of the residents told me she had a crush on one of the new male residents, but he had rejected her, she was crushed. Life goes on, everywhere.)
I cannot imagine withdrawing from them with Red, forgetting them, walking away. I try to limit the things I ask people for, or the things that cost a lot of money. When Connie's computer failed, I urged people not to try to replace it, it was too much, and someone sent the perfect gift, a Kindle Fire. I hope this was not too much for them, I worry about it.
I try and confine our support to messages and letters, the most effective and meaningful gifts to the residents, a feeling of being known.
Your support on holidays are so important now, the gifts and bags and cards for Easter are beginning to come in, I brought bags of Easter gifts over to the Mansion today, was sent by a wonderful woman in New York City who sends bags on every holiday, and whose letter writing groups sends the most wonderful letters. A middle school class in New Jersey sends much loved messages every month or so. So do people from all over the country, names I don't know.
I think focusing on the holidays makes sense, and cards and letters and photos are the most important thing. There are natural breaks in between.
But I can't make any promises to the Mansion residents, I just don't know if people will forget them and I say so.
For my part, I will not walk away from these people or forget them. i couldn't live with myself if I did that, and I will take care to pace myself and to set boundaries and make good and hard choices about what it is I can do and what it is I can't do. I've learned about boundaries.
As for you, follow your own hearts. I hope no one ever feels any kind of pressure to hang in here. You are doing much good. You are, of course, free to walk away at any time, no one is keeping score. You have your own lives, resources and people to consider. It is not for me to pressure anyone. I'm staying with it.
But we have done something special here, especially now. It means a lot to me also.
"It's the long haul for me, " I told Peggie, who gave me a big hug. "I won't forget you."
If you wish to write to the Mansion residents, here is the current list of residents who have agreed to receive your letters and messages: Jane, Charlotte, Allan, Sylvie, Jean G. John Z., John R., Alanna M., Peggie, Ellen, Joan, Brenda, Connie, Alice Madeline, Mary, Barbara, William, Brother Peter, Diane D., Helen, Jean, Tim, Gerry, Dennis, Anita, Richard.