For many years, I had the honor of serving as my mom’s caregiver. It was the toughest sacred gig I’ve yet to experience. And as much as I sought a sense of spiritual, emotional, or physical balance – the more elusive any kind of balance seemed.
I have many friends who are currently living this reality.
If you’ve lived through the challenging season of caregiving, or are living it now – what’s the best advice you’d offer someone seeking a faithful, compassionate, and healthy sense of balance?
9 thoughts on “A Caregiver’s Balancing Act”
This was my most difficult job ever. While my Mom and I shared many interests and tastes, we had a difficult relationship that of course did NOT improve when she came to live with me due to her failing health. Giving up her home and leaving her community were terrible losses for her, and her increasing blindness and dementia made it just too hard to form any new ties. It came naturally to her to perceive all of these losses as my fault. Her sharp gifts as a verbal flamethrower never diminished! A wise friend once said to me “ask yourself what YOU are supposed to learn from this experience.” At times, I got through by remembering what Cordelia said to King Lear when he demanded his daughters tell him how he loved them: her older sisters gave gushing and insincere replies, but Cordelia said “according to my bond.” I loved Mom because of the bond of a lifetime of her care for me, her teaching me, her passing along to me so much in tastes and interests, because as Mother and Daughter, even at the worst there was still a bond of duty to care. At the very end of her life, when she didn’t know me, she asked to confess a fault to me, a stranger, because “I can’t tell Penny, she’s such a good girl, and she does such beautiful work.” In this moment, she brought me instantly to “why was I doing this” … because even though she couldn’t directly acknowledge me, she could still choose me as her confessor and describe my virtues to me as she would describe them to a stranger. That single moment brought absolution to us both, and expunged all resentments. To those who feel deeply they are doing a difficult an unrewarding job, I offer the mantra “according to my bond,” and my prayer that you, too, will come to learn why you are doing this special task.
read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
When I was much younger I had my first daughter who was one year at the time plus taking care of her grandmother with ALS. Hard work and much to jungle to also raise a child. I remember everything. I can’t say that with a lot of my life, but this? Yes. Her name was Shirley. She was angry about her disease. She was an independent woman who was now valuable. She was not a religious person but did believe there was a higher power. The outdoors cheered all of us. The baby cheered Shirley also.
It’s easy to trust in God when life is good. But trusting in God’s care for us does not mean we get to have a life of ease. God’s care is not necessarily removing difficulties. God’s care is access to his grace. God’s care is being with us in everything. And God’s care is ultimately all about bringing us to Him for eternity.
I was young.
I would say
I was young of twenty four. We took care of each other. With love. With grace, with frustration. With laughter. With compassion. With tears. All in God’s care. I would do this again.
I was young of twenty four. I would say we took care of each other. With grace. With love. With frustration. With tears. With laughter. With compassion. With anger. But most of all with God’s care. And I would do it again.
Oh Penny, “according to my bond”! I’ll never read or hear that phrase the same way again. Thank you!
I could not agree more, Karen. Thanks,
Wow, Mary Lynn – a new baby +Shirley, with ALS in her body + a 24 year-old you = love/grace/frustration/laughter/compassion/ tears to be sure! Thanks for sharing these sacred experiences, lessons and memories with us!
My friend Sue shared the following with me privately, but agreed to let me share it with you all –
Gratefully accept offers of help. Don’t be a martyr. A friend offered to sit with my mom, one night of her final week on earth, and I desperately needed a full night’s sleep. That friend will always hold a special spot in my heart.