I’m sorry, I’m going to make you cry. But I promise, they’ll be beautiful tears.
I don’t usually post on weekends, but this an important piece that is not a part of this year’s continuing series. This is about one of life’s biggest moments, and it features the excellent video below –but let’s save that for the right moment. I include it because it does a better job of eliciting one aspect of this idea in ways better than can be achieved with only words, without music or video.
In addition to the book built in part from many of this year’s new posts, I am also well along on another relating to caregiving and awareness. The challenge that some have communicated with me is that they must decide if they should take on caregiving before that book will be ready. In cases where we cannot work directly together to do this in more detail, this post is designed to address that question as completely as possible. It’s a big issue, so the video helps.
When most people consider this question, they often only very superficially engage with the key questions involved. Most imagine essentially being a maid and chauffeur to a particularly confused and diapered person who needs help grooming and whose medical needs may threaten to feel overwhelming.
These things are all often true. So is the fact that someone has to handle their administrative affairs, and countless other things, but those are useful, but not the ultimate, questions to ponder.
Caregiving is not something that can be done by obligation or it will be done poorly. Many people are not natural caregivers. It takes tremendous daily patience with hundreds of little things. It can often be both disgusting and embarrassing. It will include some very sad, difficult, frustrating and repetitive experiences.
It is insanely demanding on your time, it’s often quite complex, it’s often financially damaging, you’re always juggling, and over time your entire life is very likely go so unattended that it will fail to even exist. In turn, that means it also needs to be rebuilt afterwards. These are all huge prices that people have every right and good sense to avoid. The question then is, why don’t some of us do that?
Some do mistakenly try to do the work for the wrong reasons. These are the people that often suffer worse than the person they care for. No past sense of obligation nor any sense of future gain will help –there is only one reason to take on caregiving.
There is only one motivation that can continually drive us towards such difficult experiences. It is a very particularly kind of love, much like the price-paying love that parents routinely give to their children.
If we do not feel caregiving as our absolute calling, then the idea that we –or anyone else– would do it seems crazy. The price seems too high, and the benefits too questionable in many cases. But, for those of us who have our love manifest in this absolute sense, we cannot imagine abandoning this duty any more than others can imagine taking it on.
To us there is no question, because we do not see the job as just diapers and laundry and cooking and driving and waiting and being concerned. To us it is love in much the same way as parents love children, and lovers and old friends love each other. It’s not something we think into existence, it is a powerful impulse we feel about other certain other human beings.
(You may want to save this video until after you’ve finished reading the piece.)
When we feel this feeling toward a parent, we are struck by two ideas. The first is that we recognize that these people we love have limited time for experiences, and we become very invested in ensuring as many of those experiences are secure, positive and as enjoyable as possible.
As Plato said, life is hard and everyone carries a heavy load. It is a special thing to be able to say –and for other people to hear us say– ‘fear not, I will carry your load the rest of the way.‘ The looks that two people can share during difficult and vulnerable times are extremely powerful experiences that connect people on an extremely deep level.
The second realization that happens is that, as they did with us as children, the last thing a real caregiver wants to see on their loved one’s face is fear or uncertainty, and both can happen a lot if things like dementia are involved.
Building plans and taking action to resolve any fears and to provide comfort is, for a natural caregiver, as natural as doing it for ourselves. The two pursuits aren’t even seen as separate –again, much like a true parent’s care for a child. It’s not an obligation, it’s a necessity.
The video is about this second idea –the idea that we are there to take on the parent-role and offer the comfort, care and assurance that provides people peace through the final parts of their journey.
This role means being present for many sad and difficult experiences, but do not think that this role exists without humour, without deep and meaningful rewards, and without joy for all involved. For the right kind of person, there are few more beautiful experiences.
It’s an important question to ask: am I the right kind of person for this job? Do I want to be there to take the fear away right up to the end? If Mr. Blunt’s song frightens us, or if we have trouble feeling it deeply in an emotional way, then we may not be a natural caregiver and that’s just fine.
If, however, our response is to see only two loving people’s journeys through the grace of acceptance –and if we see the price paid as irrelevant and wise– then we may be one of the people who can find deep meaning by expressing our love through care for another.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.