While the “official” Caregivers in the Spotlight month has concluded, if you are on my newsletter distribution you already know that we are going to continue to spotlight caregivers on this blog and in our Facebook community going forward! I am so excited to be able to make this space for sharing of stories from other caregivers. Each story is unique and personal to the author and yet the themes of support, lessons learned and challenges overcome truly feels universally beneficial.
Today’s post was written by Susanne White, who I was lucky enough to meet through social media. Her story and the way she looks at caregiving is inspiring and hope-filled. Thank you Susanne for your willingness to share this with us!
Gifts of Caregiving
My dad was a WWII hero bombardier pilot who stood tall and steady with a dry sense of humor and a great outlook on life. So when he had to be taken off an airplane in a wheel chair because he had become so sick during the flight my sister and I were “shell shocked.” It turned out he had walking pneumonia due to the utter exhaustion he was experiencing compensating for and taking care of my mom who was beginning to show signs of dementia.
I took my dad aside and without even thinking about it asked him if he would like me to step in and help him take care of my mom. He said yes so quickly my heart jumped. I said ok almost as quickly not knowing at all what that meant or foreseeing what the future had in store.
I began a journey that day that would change my life forever. I was on my way to experience some of the most enduring, scary, enlightening, challenging, exhausting, miraculous and spiritually awakening times in my life. I had stepped up to the plate without blinking and I would play the game of my life.
For the next four years I devoted my life to their care. There were times I screamed at the sky for putting me through it and times I got down on my knees with gratitude. I found out more about myself and my parents then I ever thought possible. I gained a new understanding about life and an uneasy but workable respect for death.
As caregivers, we hold the lives of those we care for in our hands, doing best job we can to make them safe and warm, supported and comforted. Our mission is to dig deep within ourselves to be their voice when needed, come from a place of compassion in all we do and find strength and patience on a daily basis. These practices and lessons are gifts that brought out the best in me and will guide me now for the rest of my life.
I had another gift in store for me that came as a complete surprise and for which I am grateful beyond measure.
My relationship with my dad was a good one but my mom and I had butted heads all our lives. Perhaps I was too much like her and although we loved each other to pieces we never gave each other a break. When I began pitching in and helping with her care a shift happened in both of us. It wasn’t easy and took a tremendous effort but our relationship took on new meaning. We began to heal that relationship and find forgiveness. The most important relationship in my life was transformed from one of contention to one of peace and contentment. We saw each other as we were; mother and daughter, flawed but good intended and we began to enjoy each other.
I had tried for years to find that place with my mom but it was only through the compassion I found for her and myself as her caregiver that we were able to find a new way to be with each other. As I look back today I don’t remember or see the tough or angry times. I see the laughter and the tears of connection. What a priceless gift! I would do it all over again not only because it was the right thing to do but because the experience changed my world and my life became so much richer.
She graduated from Cabrini College, PA with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology and received her PhD in Life Studies from the College of the Seat of Her Pants. She was blessed with the opportunity to care for her parents and ventured out on a journey that would change her life. She blogs about this journey on her site caregiverwarrior.com and shares her experience, strength and hope with others so that they too may survive caregiving with grace and empowerment.
Follow her on Twitter @caregivewarrior