Wearing my straw garden hat for shade, I headed out on foot from our New Orleans bed and breakfast in the Treme neighborhood to the far corner of the French Quarter. By Sunday, after three full days at Jazz Fest, I gave myself permission to relax. Don't get me wrong, Jazz Fest was fun and exciting; it was also loud, hot, crowded and exhausting.
After seeing a movie to escape the heat for a while, I walked to Café du Monde and found a table where I could look out at the street. A woman came into the café wearing a corsage accompanied by her family. They were celebrating Mother's Day, as were others who walked by.
My mom passed away five years ago. I thought about her as I sipped my café au lait. She would have enjoyed sitting at the cafe watching people and indulging in beignets. I miss her at times like that.
What I don't miss is the deep sadness that I felt during the last few years of her life. She had Alzheimer's disease and for many years, my tears were often on the surface. During that period, I could not have imagined that I would be as happy as I am now.
I recently returned from San Francisco where I co-lead a workshop at the Aging in America Conference. My colleague, Kim Fowler, and I presented our Writing Down Dementia workshop. We were pleased with the willingness of the attendees to participate and share their impromptu writings. Many of them are social workers, professors of gerontology, and directors of caregiving facilities by day and caregivers for their own elderly parents or grandparents at night.
Their "jobs" are tough. They were grateful for a few minutes of peace in an intimate setting to reflect, write their experiences and share with each other their fears, challenges, and love.
Finding moments of peace is so important. A friend in San Francisco described it as harmony. When she woke up that morning, she said "harmony" popped into her mind. She told me she felt a sense of harmony for the first time in a long time and wanted to learn ways to create harmony even in those times when life is challenging.
As the closing act in the Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest on Saturday, Aaron Neville sang so sweetly. He mentioned the rising waters in the river, as he motioned outside of the tent. He didn't say the words, Mississippi River, but we knew what he meant. In a quiet, beautiful voice, he sang Ave Maria and a sense of harmony spread.