I have a friend who, as a very gifted athlete, grew up playing sports and traveling constantly so he did not have any pets. I grew up with pets – cats, dogs, horses and yes, some cattle who were like pets! When my friend began dating a woman who had three dogs, he made an observation that had not occurred to me. His observation really stuck with me and I apply it to my life with Jack.
My friend said the unconditional love of dogs is amazing. If he went out to the mailbox, the dogs greeted him with great love and joy when he returned. If he went out for several hours, they greeted him with great love and joy when he returned. If he was away for a week, they greeted him with great love and joy when he returned. They didn’t care if he was gone for a minute or for weeks, they showed him the same great love and joy.
When I met and fell in love with Jack, I remembered what my friend said. I always want him to know I love him with joy and unconditional love. This hasn’t changed with his diagnosis of dementia but I have recognized that my expression of love for him will serve him, and me, better if I change how I express it.
Once I recognized this, a thought came to me about how to show my love for him that is more appropriate based on where we are in our journey. It was as though the thought was waiting for me to become aware of it. I thought of the pure love and incredible compassion Mother Teresa showed people. I recognized I wanted the love I show Jack to embody the way she loved so purely and with such great compassion.
Now, rather than giving him a great big hug and kiss when I see him, I give him a smile and greet him with the same phrase I have since shortly after we met. This gives him an opportunity to “dial in” recognition of me at whatever level he has available to him that day and I can meet him where he’s at. He recognizes my smile and my voice and is comfortable with me in his presence without being overwhelmed by an enthusiastic hug!
Every day my prayers include helping me be reminded to love Jack like Mother Teresa modeled. Here are some of Mother Teresa’s prayers and sayings that help remind me how I can show my puppy dog love for Jack in a way that more effectively serves where he is on our journey of love.
Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ― Mother Teresa
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ― Mother Teresa
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa
Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ― Mother Teresa
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” ― Mother Teresa
A Prayer of Compassion
Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry,the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts that we may love each other as you love us.
Renew in us your spirit.
Lord, free us and make us one.
Citation for sayings: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/838305.Mother_Teresa