Today, two girlfriends came over to have a quick lunch with me before they headed off to art. Now, these girls are my buds and seem to know what’s best for me, when I can’t think for myself. While eating, I commented how I hadn’t put anything back after all the ceiling and window replacements in the house. All my stuff was upstairs and I just couldn’t get motivated. So, their eyes lit up and said, “We can decorate your house!” “Have at it!” I said. So, after three hours of putzing around, rearranging, placing things here and there, and retiring old things, we were finished. It was three hours of shear fun. Watching them, caused me to reflect on the gratitude of how so many people have brought cups of water to us over the last 11 years. Some water came in HUGE BARRELS, like the friend who just volunteered over 100 hours of his time to repair my failing retaining wall or the nights when someone would stay awake with Jerry for his “sleep deprived” MRI. Some were delectable little tastes, filled with richness, like the neighbor who left a little jar of daffodils by my front door when we both had the flu or when I checked the mail and found a jar of homemade applesauce with a ribbon around it. I wanted to dedicate this post to some of those things, so that when you ever encounter a loved one or friend who has been caregiving for a long time, you may take a moment to pass them a cup of water.
Please don’t ever let the fear that you can’t “DO ANYTHING” or “SAY ANYTHING” stop you from expressing the gifts of kindness and compassion. After the initial shock, there were calls of concern pouring out all over the place. Friends helped me get my house ready to sell. Another sold it and waived the fees while taking care of all the details and the backbreaking work of digging up my septic tank! Our oldest daughter was getting married, so people volunteered to be runners and coordinators at the wedding, baked cookies and goodies for the gift bags, and took care of lots of little details. As a beginning caregiver, the initial shock is overwhelming, especially with this type of diagnosis. Being so overwhelmed doesn’t exactly lend itself to details. Your too consumed with trying to make sense of the loss to worry about selling your house or putting on weddings.
But as an illness drags on for years, lives go on and move on. Friends get busy. The caregiver becomes isolated. As the disease grows worse, the needs actually become greater. Especially, when the person who is ill is your spouse. Now, not only does the caregiver care for the spouse, but she (me) has to take up all the responsibilities that the spouse use to take care of....down to taking out the trash. I can tell you, it’s gives me a little smile when I come out of my house and see that someone walked by and brought my trash can in. What a little thing, but what a wonderful thing! More things, like: when my neighbor walks his dog, he sometimes walks mine too; and having a little casserole for two dropped off in the morning. My contractor even brought my mail to me and someone washed my car, changed my oil and had my tires rotated. Even a text message that says, “You are in my thoughts today.” can lift one’s spirit.
Then, of course, there were the JV’s (the Jerry volunteers) who coordinated outings for Jerry. AND, the volunteer who takes him every Monday. AND, the friend who calls and says, “Can I take Jerry to lunch?” Or the friend who rides with me to check out facilities. The list goes on and on.
So, next time you are thirsty, take an extra cup of water to someone who God places on your heart.