Monday, December 28, 2009

Kwanzaa -- The Principle Ujima

Today is the third day of Kwanzaa. The principle is Ujima, the Swahili word for collective work and responsibility. When I reflect over the year to when I observed this principle, my mind goes to the last weeks of my mom's life. So many of us -- family, friends, hospice workers, pulled together to enjoy and honor her. One weekend stands out, one particular project -- taking down the king size bed my mom slept in, with her beloved king size electric blanket, and setting up the hospital bed that was to take its place. Bending over to care for mom had begun to take its toll on the back of the bubbly home care worker, Suzette. I had been put off by her at first--her super sunshiny manner--and she had suddenly replaced the Kenyan sister, Annie, I had grown to like. Who knew that I would fight to keep Suzette as long as I could, when the hospice nurse informed us that Suzette's agency did not allow her to give medicine? Suzette had so endeared herself in our hearts because of her loving way with mom. "I feel like a Queeeeeeeeen," mom had said one day after a foot massage.

The day of the bed dismantling the crew that assembled went to Cracker Barrel for Sunday breakfast, where we tossed around what to do with the king bed once it was down. Should it be put up in the other room, where two twins beds were, should one twin bed go into mom's room along with the hospital bed? Where would the components of the king size bed go, or the twin beds if disassembled? We're talking a 2 bedroom apartment here with a furniture filled den. These logistics may seem trite but with a variety of opinions and a need for a decision, it was an impressive task. But over food, the negotiations ended with an agreement that the king size bed would replace the twin beds in the other bedroom and mom's room would only hold the hospital bed--offering more room for visitors.

Back home, the labor began. My son-in law and son, took off their shirts and got to work. Mom was entertaining friends up front in the living room. My daughter, Annie,(there for the weekend), Bernadine, a family friend, and I turned our attention to the folded up hospital bed. Annie informed us it was an old model. Great. We didn't get far because we turned out to be in the way of the parts coming in. I was amazed how quickly that giant bed went down, followed by the twin beds. Slats, mattresses hugged the hallway but slowly Bernadine began stowing them, against the den wall, in the back of a closet,and behind the couch. That hospital bed proved the most difficult, for a good while we just couldn't figure out how to get the crank to work. But then Annie came up with the right placement of metal and niche.

It really did take a village that day. We worried that mom would not like her new accommodations but she responded well, and made it clear that the king size electric blanket meant more to her than the bed. So we folded it to fit her new bed.
UJIMA -- it felt good that day!

photo courtesy of The Insider

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