This Is When I Think of You – A Meditation for Fellow Caregivers

Yes, you.
My fellow caregiver.

I think of you most often as I walk out of Mom’s senior living place. Perhaps it is 9:45 p.m. on a frigid winter night. I worked all day and then drove the half-hour journey to have dinner and a game of Scrabble with Mom. She has told me her litany of things – birds on her feeder, friends who are ill, bargains at the store, aches and pains, childhood memories. Her voice rings in my ears.

I breathe a great sigh into the night air. It comes out in a cloud of steam replete with that familiar mix of weariness, gratitude, and loneliness. That’s when I remember you and send you a blessing for doing the thankless, dull, strangely joyful, exhausting work of caregiving.

I know you are sitting just down the hall during those hours at the clinic, watching a patient nurse practitioner or physician help Mom navigate the complexities of her 90-year-old body. You know that delicate dance between knowing when to intervene and when to step back. How do you decide which to choose?

And I think of you when I am breaking down Mom’s walker and stowing it in the back seat of her Buick – at the grocery store, the hair salon, the pharmacy, the restaurant. How many times have I performed this ballet? How many times have you?

I celebrate with you when I make her laugh in that way that lights up her blue eyes – still sparkling and vivid at 90. And when she calls me back for one more hug before we part and I breathe in the gift of her still-aliveness through her familiar scent. I say to you with a brimming heart: “This makes it all worthwhile, don’t you think?”

Remember, I am right beside you as you sit by the hospice bedside at 3:00 a.m., torn between wanting to hold on and needing to let go. I am thinking of you as you sit on hold with Medicare, as you listen to the same story for the third time, as you drive through traffic once more to be there. Just be there. For whatever comes.

I know you are doing your best. And we both know though it will never be perfect, it will be enough. I forgive you your moments of impatience and frustration. Will you forgive mine as well?

My unknown friend. my fellow caregiver:
We are in this together, even when we feel most alone.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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4 Responses to This Is When I Think of You – A Meditation for Fellow Caregivers

  1. Amber Faith Bullington says:

    Brilliant. Lovely.

  2. mark Ritland says:

    I’ve been there before…both with mom and with dad….I always tried to be there for both of them.
    With dad, it was always accompanying mom …but once he passed, it was just me and mom….
    taking her out for supper, folding up her walker, trying to humor her…Near the end , it was always
    more difficult because her once sharp mind was unable to process information…we didn’t even
    tell her when her daughter died…it would’ve crushed her little heart. On the very last day, I was
    with her in her room…..cold dark room…when she passed away it was just me alone with her…
    I saw her try to sit up in her last gasp, but then she settled back for a long, long rest…..what a
    great mom she was.

    • Hello Mark – I am so touched by your story. It is a profound honor to be present at the death of someone, especially someone so close and precious as your mom. I am grateful that you took the time to write — and more importantly — that you stepped into the challenging and beautiful role of caregiver for you mother. She was blessed to have you by her side.

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