In Gratitude

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In Gratitude

By Joyce Sjoberg, Fellow with the NACCM Leadership Academy

It wasn’t until April 2020 that I began to realize the severity of the pandemic.  I suppose denial was at play, wishing for something that wasn’t.  Focusing on our clients and their families took precedence, ensuring that we had personal protective gear for everyone on our team (and some of our clients and their caregivers) and staying on top of the situation was essential.  I think the interview on NPR with a scientist for New York Times really brought the full situation of what we were dealing with very real.

As we headed into May and clearly we were all doing what we could from home and while our team was seeing clients (those we could see) I found myself filled with gratitude.  As I and likely many of us in the start of the pandemic pondered our own demise I thought of others who had gone before me and I was filled with peace, reassurance and hope.  I thought about the wisdom they had shared and the life each of them had lived.  I want to share the first elder in my life that came to me in my thoughts and prayers last year and all that I was grateful for.

I’m writing about my mother-in-law Yvonne.  Yvonne Skotarek was a ball of fire.  She lived a passionate and full life and she passed that love on to others in her family, through her friends and definitely in her community.  Yvonne loved traditions.  While her parents died young and likely she didn’t grow up with many traditions she created those in her life.  She organized and prepared an amazing cookie decorating party for her grand-children to enjoy and celebrate together, a delightful Christmas tea that brought all her family together sharing in the season and letting us admire all the cookies that the grandchildren had decorated and she prepared and organized a delightful Easter gathering, hiding eggs in or around her home each year.  Some times at these spring gatherings she would bring in a photographer and we have photos of everyone gathered each year.

The strongest memory I have of Yvonne is her love of light, color, laughter and dance.  She loved light and all that meant to her.  She studied Reiki later in her life and offered healing to anyone that was in a dark place in their lives.  She worked at the local AA office providing support to men and women in recovery.  Offering them a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to and light and healing.  She loved color.  I looked forward to every holiday, but especially Mothers Day because she would arrive in new outfits and new shoes and they were always colorful.  Sometimes she would die her hair to match her outfits.  There was always color surrounding her.  You always knew when she was at a party because her laughter was particularly infectious and fun to be around.  But most of all, I appreciated that she loved to dance.  She was always looking for dance partners and she loved to keep healthy so she could dance.  At the party for her sister Mary, a musician who was trained in songs from Greece and Spain entertained all of us and Yvonne got up and danced the afternoon and evening away.  No one was free to just sit and watch, eventually we all got up and danced.  

Thank you Yvonne for helping to remind me in the challenges that this Pandemic brought that it’s important to keep dancing.  

Categories: Wellbeing