Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Mother’s Patient Lift

After my mother passed away in 2008, we began the joyless task of going through her things. We donated her hospital bed and considered doing the same with her patient lift, a tool her caregivers had used to get her in and out of bed for the last thirty-nine years of her life (like Lassie, several dogs played this role over the years). Kim and I decided to claim the lift in case we might need it someday. The contraption proved useful in my house only once when I fell on the floor and couldn’t get up.

This model shared certain characteristics with an army tank: big, heavy, and awkward to maneuver. But we held onto it anyway. A couple of years later, we installed an overhead lift system in our bedroom, which rendered this device even less necessary. Because there are almost no overhead lifts in hotel rooms, we recently purchased a more modern, much lighter lift for traveling. With my mother’s lift relegated to third string, we decided it was time to divest ourselves of it. We knew if we asked only $50 on Craigslist, a token amount, it would go quickly, and some disabled person would get a great deal.

Gary contacted me last weekend and said he would drive from Massachusetts on Wednesday to pick it up. Perfect. The doorbell rang at 10 o’clock this morning, and I met a pleasant, friendly gentleman. He patted Phoebe and complemented my house and my neighborhood. I lead Gary into the garage to show him the lift. “Just what I was looking for,” he said. “I’ll take it. I didn’t drive two hours to go home empty-handed.”

“Excellent. Who will you be lifting with it?”

“Oh, I don’t want it for that. I own a print shop and have to handle 300 pound boxes all the time, and it’s going to kill me. I’ve been looking for one of these at a reasonable price.”

Wait a minute. I assumed I would be selling this to a disabled person. That’s why I priced it so low. Should I tell him he can’t have it? On the other hand, he’s a very nice man, and he did drive two hours… “I hope it works out well for you,” I said.

Gary patted Phoebe again, gave me the $50, noticed my Apple watch and showed me his. Within minutes of arriving, he packed up the lift and set out for Massachusetts. Oh well, not ideal, but that’s done.

Then, a sinking feeling came over me. I didn’t just sell my patient lift to somebody who doesn’t have a patient. I sold my dear mother’s lift to be used in some dirty old print shop. It shouldn’t matter. She’s no longer alive, and the lift never was. I still felt awful, though. A trace of my mother resided in that hunk of metal, but I knew the lift was impractical to keep around as a memento. Plus, I have something better to remember her by.

I still use her cardholder all the time. If the day comes when my hands don’t allow me to play cards, even with the assistance of this tool, I’m not going to sell it on Craigslist. I'm going to keep it forever, just like the memories of my mother.


  1. I have had the same experience: putting a low price on something for what I thought was an individual with a real need, only to have a dealer show up and buy it. You know what? In a couple of months I never gave it a second thought. Your Mom would be pooh-poohing the whole thing so I think you can just think how you have benefitted an enterprising business person who works hard every day. You may have saved him from a ruined back, constant pain, and who knows what else! And Yay for you and Kim -- decluttering!

  2. Think of it this way, Mitch: That guy will be able to use the lift to prevent a possible (debilitating) back injury from repetitive lifting of heavy boxes. You helped him make a smart and healthy choice that will enable him to work longer, provide for his family, and be happy. Good vibes all around as far as I can see! I mean think about, if he were to be injured he may have to suffer through hours of Physical Therapy with the likes of me :)

    1. Well said by the compassionate physical therapist that you are. Regarding "suffer through hours of physical therapy with the likes of me :-)", I think I can describe that experience. It's one part rock concert, one part receiving psychotherapy, one part administering psychotherapy, and one part being stretched on the rack. But I always come out better off physically and emotionally.

    2. What does it say about me that I am most happy to see "rock concert" on that list.... We love having you too, Mitch. Those benefits go both ways :)