By Vicki Tapia

Opportunity: a favorable, appropriate, or advantageous combination of circumstances; a chance or prospect

What would life be like without opportunity? I find the thought rather bleak. Opportunity can be sought after, but it can also seek us. Opportunity sought me when I became the family caregiver for both my parents, who had dementia.

How often do we look at a person with dementia and see…well, see a demented person? As yet, there’s no way to slow or stop the progression of this devastating disease, so how could we possibly reframe it as an opportunity in, and of, itself?  Can we not only learn to accept the person’s disability, but embrace this disability and see it as an opportunity?  An opportunity, you say? How on earth could it be an opportunity?

Throughout my life, Mom and I’d often been at odds with each other, and for most of her decline into dementia, the disease did not improve our relationship. Toward the end, however, the opportunity to heal old wounds arrived and I came to know acceptance. I learned to meet her where she stood on her dementia journey. This led to another opportunity to embrace Mom, and release my negative emotional bag filled with pain, anger, frustration, irritation, and dismay.  Our divisions repaired themselves and I discovered only tenderness. Transgressions, real or imagined, dissolved as I found the opportunity to build bridges, constructed simply of love. I had encountered real life. My one, true mother neared the end of her earthly stay, and I received the gift of release, an opportunity to let go, finding closure in a beautiful experience that transcended time and space. Ten years later, I still feel enveloped in my mother’s love. Thank goodness for opportunities.