"Caring for our seniors is perhaps the greatest responsibility we have. Those who walked before us have given so much and made possible the life we enjoy." ~John Hoeven
We jumped in with both feet, my husband and I. From the get-go, it was sink or swim. For months, long days stretched into the nighttime hours as we pressed to prepare our home for their arrival.
Vacating our house was bittersweet. Honestly, I don't miss it one bit. But the process of shedding so much of our old lives was painful at times. Perhaps it was the physical exhaustion of hard work and the constant to-do lists that empowered us to ride the emotional waves of change.
Moving my folks into our house was daunting. Quick decisions on what the smaller space would accommodate equalled those we'd just stumbled through in the remodeling process. Family and friends know how I agonized over every decision. Would they like this color of paint? Texture of carpet? Choice of kitchen cabinets? But to decide which of their possessions made the cut? I had to defer to my more level-headed family members who were better equipped to make snap decisions.
It's been almost four months since my parents changed their address to our own. There isn't time to share all the emotional highs and lows they've experienced, and how my husband and I have allowed ourselves to shadow their unpredictable roller coaster ride. Their sense of loss has been profound. Too many times I have found myself in tears because I found my mom crying. I have felt a rash of anger overtake me at the unexpected outbursts of one or both. Time after time, their moments of frustration, depression, and defeat have wormed their way into my spirit and wreaked havoc. On the flip side, witnessing their smiles and fleeting sense of joy and contentment has felt like a healing balm on my own soul.
This shouldn't surprise me, this shadowing of emotions and experiences. Isn't this how my role as a parent as often played out? When our children are happy, I'm happy. When they hurt, I hurt.
Today, I realized I am free of this! I can love my parents ~ my kids ~ my spouse, without shadowing their every mood and experience. Does it mean I care any less? Not on your life.
It means I can take care of myself and honor my own journey and experience apart from theirs. And here's where it gets really good ~ in the process, I will be strengthened and better equipped in my roles as daughter, mother, wife, friend.
Today I read, caregiving can shave ten years off your life. CAN. Not WILL. Today's epiphany, which I believe to be truth, must have practical application. My journey into discovering what that looks like begins here and now.
I will share every morsel and nugget in hopes it speaks to someone else. This caregiving journey, it's a call to "love in action". I forget this in the midst of all the dailys. But "love in action" has got to be one of my highest callings. It begins with caring for myself ~ so I can, in turn, care for others. And maybe, just maybe, my smile and joyful countenance will be contagious.
"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health." ~Proverbs 15:30
"Perhaps in receiving we heal others, in giving we heal ourselves." ~Author Unknown