Greetings one and all…
I hope you and yours are enjoying a lovely morning. It is glorious in Denver—brilliant sunshine bouncing off 7 inches of snow that fell over the weekend. Yesterday was spent shoveling the driveway, walks, and a path in the backyard for the dogs. Today, I’ll be able to take a long walk in the neighborhood once the snow and ice melt off the sidewalks. Gotta love winter in the Rockies!
As the snow was falling yesterday, I spent some time watching a virtual conference on caregiving. There were speakers from all over the world who presented a variety of topics. One speaker in particular caught my attention and touched my heart. She and her mother presented a program on having “the” conversation with family members about preferences for medical care at the end of life. The daughter is 59 years of age and her mother is 83. The daughter shared that she is currently caring for her mother and father, both of whom are dealing with significant medical issues.
Listening to the daughter describe the challenges of caring for her parents, the memories of caring for my mom and dad bubbled up. Although I was much younger (15 years old) when called to care, my experience of caring for my parents is quite similar to that described by the speaker yesterday. I resonated with her hopes and fears. I appreciated her frustrations with the health care system. I recognized her grief as she anticipates the death of her parents. I sensed the weight of responsibility that weighs heavy on her heart to care well for her parents—to do the right thing. And I realized that it matters not your age when called to care; the journey of caregiving is just hard!
I have often wondered how my experience of caregiving would have been different if I had been older and a bit wiser. As a teenager caring for my terminally-ill mother, I felt scared and lost most days. If I had been older, would the journey have been better? Well, there is no way to know, right? But the “ah-ha” I had yesterday is that while our age certainly informs our experience of caregiving, there is no magical age at which we feel fully prepared to care for another person. At every age, there are perceived blessings as well as burdens related to how we “see” the situation. And our “view” of the situation is informed by our age and maturity.
Being young and inexperienced when caring for my mom, I was oblivious to some of the issues that probably caused my parents great concern. I guess there is some truth to the sentiment that ignorance is bliss! And yet, in the absence of information and certainty, I found my fair share of things to worry about—things I felt ill-equipped to handle. On the other hand, my youthful innocence allowed for an unwavering belief that all would be well. I was hope-FULL. And that hope ultimately sustained me through some very tough times.
At the conclusion of the presentation yesterday, the daughter remarked that caring for her parents is ultimately a sacred experience. BUT, it’s also hard! Such is the nature of caregiving—regardless of our age. Please know I am not trying to discourage anyone from being a caregiver. I am merely highlighting the importance of recognizing the reality of the journey. It’s OK to admit that caregiving IS hard—because it is! And then, it’s important to recognize and to embrace the sacred moments that unfold from time to time. Those are the moments that keep us going. Those are the moments we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. Today, those are the moments I am remembering and savoring. Perhaps you are as well after reading my reflection.
I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane
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