At this writing two people very close to me have been serving extended time as caregivers. After four years of battling breast cancer, my stepson Brian’s wife Kelli just passed from this life last Thursday at the entirely too young age of 32. Another battle with cancer is raging in Franklin, Tennessee in the lives of my long time (30 years) dear friends George and Kathy King.
There have been plentiful tributes (and rightly so) for Kelli and George, and I hope there will be many more. They deserve them. But for a brief moment (and I know that is more than either Brian or Kathy would want—they are two of the most unselfish and unassuming people I’ve ever known) I would like to pay them (and all the other caregivers out there) tribute.
Although nothing in comparison to what Brian and Kathy are going through, I’ve also had a small taste of caregiving for the first time in my life over the past five months. The emotional stress of the ups and downs—and the day to day struggles with life and death decisions cannot be overstated.
- Caregivers are the ones who listen carefully to myriad Doctors, begin a notebook, take meticulous notes, argue exorbitant and unnecessary medical charges, while always making sure that every necessary test and procedure is scheduled and administered in a professional way.
- Caregivers hold back their emotion and tears in order to provide strength for their loved ones who are fighting for their life.
- Caregivers repeatedly disseminate information for children, other family members and well-meaning friends.
- Caregivers scour the Internet for reputable sources like Mayo Clinic, researching every symptom, medication and incomprehensible medical term to insure proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Caregivers hold back the choicest curse words as they quickly realize our money hungry and litigious society has significantly curtailed the ability for our medical professionals to be completely honest, thus many times compromising prompt and affordable care for our loved ones.
- Caregivers oft-times must make hard financial decisions that on one hand mean life and death, on the other hand mean life-long debt or bankruptcy. (I now really understand and empathize with the dilemma Walter White faces in the television series “Breaking Bad”).
- Caregivers, like mothers, seem to always have an extra reserve of strength, a ready shoulder to cry upon, the ability to absorb screams, anger and temper tantrums without taking them personally (at least, most of the time), and the ability to manage housekeeping, child care, medical care and a full-time job(s) simultaneously.
Am I saying all caregivers are perfect? Absolutely not.
Am I saying caregivers are our unsung heroes? Ab-so-freakin-lute-ly!!!!
A caregiver believes an inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
A caregiver realizes what happens to a person is less significant than what happens within them.
A caregiver realizes our strength is measured by what we can carry; and our spirituality is measured by what we can bear.
A caregiver realizes you don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live.
Here’s to Brian and Kathy and all the other caregivers out there.
They are our unsung heroes.
And darn it, I just happen to be a singer, and I have decided this song will be unsung no more. Will you sing a little harmony with me?