Wednesday, May 11, 2011

caregiving.

 {My mother, aunts, and grandmother: Christmas 2010. Can you guess who I belong to?}

Mother’s Day was Sunday, and like a lot of you, I spent the day thinking about my mother, how grateful I am for how she chose to raise me and my brother, for the prayers she spoke on the way to school, for the talks on the front porch swing, the desserts baked and the bulletin boards created.

I thought a lot, too, though, about my mother as a caregiver.

For years now, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to watch my grandmother age. Not every grandchild gets this, I know. For many, grandparents are simply too far away for grandchildren to watch the process unfold. But aside from the four years I spent away at school, I have lived near — sometimes just a few doors down from — my grandparents.

In fact, even when I was away at school, I lived in the same town as my father’s parents. My freshman year, I watched as my grandmother battled and beat brain cancer. The winter I graduated, I saw my grandfather quickly deteriorate as he fought against the lung cancer that suddenly took his life. These are bookends of time I am grateful to have observed.

But here in Tallahassee, I have watched as my grandmother has seemingly aged overnight. No cancer has plagued her body, no dementia or Alzheimer’s has taken over her mind. She is, quite simply, growing old. She is still tough, stubborn, and generous, but she is different from who she was even five years ago.

Getting old sneaks up on us, I think, and it is difficult to watch the ones we love become unfamiliar to us.

Yet my mother and my aunts have never wavered. They’ve never faltered in their definitions of what it means to care for their mother. They’ve combined households, quit jobs, driven to doctors’ and hair appointments, sacrificed free time…   All because they know: This is the right thing to do.

One day, when the burden was becoming particularly difficult for my mother to bear — and if you are a caregiver, you know: The burden is heavy — my brother reassured her, told her that what she was doing, every day, was worship. It was service. It was praise.

These selfless, mundane, everyday tasks are a gift to the Creator, and they are a gift to me, to my brother, and to my cousins, as we watch our mothers perform the tasks that we might one day have to do.

Sunday morning, like congregations across the U.S., our church honored our mothers. But I loved that our minister chose to focus his sermon on caregivers, those mothers, like mine, who are now parenting their parents.

The roles are reversed, and it is hard. I do not envy the tasks my mother and my aunts do with such dignity and grace. I have seen their tears and heard their frustration, because caring for others is never easy, and I imagine the task becomes especially difficult when it involves the men and the women you have relied on and called dad and mom.

My brother, my cousins, and I have been given a gift. There is not a day that passes that I am not grateful for the influence my mother, my aunts, and my grandmothers have had on my life. With each passing day, each facial expression, each laughter, each tear, I am becoming more and more like them, and I am glad. I only hope that one day, I can exhibit the gentleness and the grace and the patience they have shown in these days, because, whether they know it or not, they are showing us the way.

(I've posted Sunday's lesson below. If you or someone you love is a caregiver, I think it is a must-listen — I've already mailed Jordan's mother and grandmother their own copies.)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Getting the opportunity to care for an aging parent or friend is one of the greatest things we will ever have the chance to do in life. As you said it is difficult and taxing on you but, the blessings that flow from the kindness and care are untold.

UR

Jennifer said...

Man, this is happening to my grandparents on my dad's side. The last time I saw them, I was astonished to see how much they had aged! It's sad. I know it will be ever harder when it's my own parents!

Sabrina said...

I like this post a lot! Tim's lesson was spot on and the way society is aging, more and more people will be caring for their elderly parents later on in life. PS- Your new picture is beyond beautiful!!

soveryvicki said...

Oh, Annie! This post made me cry. You are such a beautiful soul. (And I totally agree with Sabrina--that picture of you is lovely!!)