Do you know that the act of caregiving makes you hero? You have incredible inner strength and possess the mightiest courage. You willingly added the burdens of another to the load that you already bear, a feat that few others would attempt. You are a brave star illuminating the darkness of night. You chose to rise above your personal needs and looked uncertainty and sadness square in the eye. You are a healer, a mender, a bell ringer calling forth your divinity to be shared with the world. You were selected for this reason. You are the difference maker, the fixer-of-things, and the architect of metamorphosis. You are a spirit-filled vessel scatting seeded blessings throughout the universe.
Caring for another individual changes who you are and how you view the entire world around you. I have never had a child but have been told countless times that being responsible for another human being, another precious life, is the most fulfilling and scary adventure that we can experience. It is a blessing filled with immeasurable responsibilities and a great many worries. Of course the sad difference between parenthood and caregiving is the eventual outcome. With parenthood comes hope for future possibilities, while caring for a dementia patient leads to sadness and inevitable loss. But both are derivatives of love, a love strong enough to transcend a rocking cradle or a quiet bedside. Either way they leave us, one to venture out into the world and the other to rest eternally upon a quiet hillside.
Caring for my mother-in-law, Nan, has shown me traits about myself that I never knew I possessed, ones that for a lifetime had lain dormant. The act of caregiving remolded me like clay upon a potter’s wheel. It has made me a better person, for I came to see the world around me with fresh eyes. What was once common is not extraordinary. What was trivial is now a blessing. What was a frustration is now a victory. What was anger has been transformed into love, much like the appearance of tiny, chartreuse leaves that burst forth after a harsh and bitter winter. Caring for Nan has shined a light into the dark corners of my life and shown me what is really important. It has forced me to reprioritize my goals and walk a different path. Was there a price? Yes, my strength was gained with the sacrifice of time and hard work, repeated again and again until all my worries and bitterness were ground to dust.
When you became a caregiver you answered a calling. Learn to honor yourself in the same way that you honor your loved one. For when you are refreshed and at peace, it is as if all your doors and windows have been flung wide open. It is then that love and compassion can pass freely in and out of your life and you will have the energy to shower onto your loved one.
Remember to take time for yourself. Because after all, no one deserves it more than you.
May you be soothed by the song of the meadowlark, comforted by the warm streams of afternoon sunshine, find relief as tender as a falling autumn leaf, and catch the peace that sails on a gentle ocean wave. And in the end, I hope that the blessings that you have bestowed on your loved one keep lifting you higher and higher, until you and the orbiting stars merge into one.