UP FOR DISCUSSION … For a long time, I felt very alone in being a caregiver … alone with the challenges and reluctant to turn to anyone for help. Always comfortable with the concept of “it takes a village” to raise a child, somehow that same belief did not translate to taking care of a loved one living with an end-of-life illness. I now know that no family caregiver can possibly hope to do so without help.

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As we turn the calendar to April, I am amazed at how quickly the first quarter of the year flew by and is now behind us.  Even living life just one day at a time with little thought about the future, the time we have with our loved ones seems to disappear too fast.  Family visits, holiday observances, special celebrations, and ordinary calm days all seem to blur into a chunk of time I can barely recall.  As I think back over the first three months of 2024, all I feel is gratitude.  Much of that gratitude is centered around the many people who have walked with me on my caregiver journey – this week alone I have been surrounded with folks who know our situation and seem determined to help make it better – easier, less lonely!  I think of them as my village … my tribe if you will.  And I fully realize that without them I could not do this!

This time of the year brings visitors from the north, and just yesterday special family arrived.  It makes me joyful. We have had family and friends here on and off in the past few months, with yet another visit planned in early May.  They do not stay with us, sometimes only visit for the day, but provide a clear message that we matter to them.  They provide socialization for my loved one, respite for me, and the recognition that physical distance does not have to dictate isolation.  These life-affirming visits bring praise, encouragement, and hope from people whose only wish is that they could do more.

I am also surrounded by the support of other caregivers on an almost daily basis.  While walking different paths, we all realize our struggles are not that dissimilar, and by supporting each other we can collectively make all of our lives better.  The caregiver who gives of herself to tell her story and educate others about what she has learned along the way.  The volunteers who spend their valuable time sorting and organizing materials, so help for family caregivers is easier to find.  And the relative who willingly gives up an entire holiday weekend with her own family so I can attend a special event celebrating one of life’s important milestones.  All given without expectations of any return; all enormously valuable to me.

With all the gratitude I feel for these people, there also comes a sense of confidence and surety that with their help, I can continue to do this.  I can stay on the course.  I can strengthen my resolve to do the best job I am capable of doing for as long as is required.  For I am beginning to realize that “it takes a village” means the same whether we are raising families or walking each other home.  We are meant to live in community with one another – regardless of our circumstances or stage in life.  It is so important for young children to recognize that they belong to others.  Others who are stronger and wiser and will provide safety, care, and nurturing along the way.  Why would we think those support needs end with adulthood?  Vulnerability comes in many shapes and sizes and at any age.  Being surrounded by a “like-minded tribe” who believes in you and wants to walk with you is simply the best thing possible for any family caregiver!  I am so grateful.

 

 

UP FOR DISCUSSION:  How about you?  Who makes up your like-minded tribe?  Do they empower you to continue on your caregiver journey?  Please share your comments below.

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