If your life was a straight line – beginning on the day of your birth and ending with your last day on earth and if it were nothing more than the inevitable aging of your body from infancy through childhood and adolescence with the progressive decline throughout adulthood to senescence, then your future would seem bleak and your efforts meaningless.
If you define yourself by your looks, your accomplishments, your possessions and your work, all is futile – for your youth will fade, your accomplishments will be forgotten, your possessions lost, and you yourself retired.
The randomness of illness and accident stymies our best plans. The challenges of chronic and acute disease can seem overwhelming.
But you are more than your body, and your life is more than a single thread on a straight line.
Your life crosses the lives of many others and most significantly it is intimately entwined with the lives of the special few: your deepest friends and your family. Together we weave a tapestry, and it can tell our life stories with the richness of many perspectives.
We define ourselves through our relationships, and in our relationships, there continues to be the potential for further growth at every age. A long-married couple can still grow together as they give, forgive and grow deeper in love. Aging or disabled parents can be supported and cared for by the adult children they once nurtured.
Being the caregiver – a child, a spouse or friend – of an aging or disabled adult is one of life’s greatest challenges. It requires mutual grace: the acceptance of care and the evolution of your changing roles, the acknowledgment of conflicting emotions, and the resolve of continued caring.
Being the caregivers for aging parents who are no longer at their physical, emotional or cognitive best can be more challenging than parenting our own children. We have to see the whole person in our arms – like the infants we once rocked to sleep.
We have to see the present in the context of our loved one’s entire life, and our new relationship within the backdrop of our relationship over a lifetime – the tapestry we weave together.
This Friday, October 21st at 7 pm, I will be giving a free presentation at the Norman Rothstein Theatre at 950 West 41st Avenue (at Oak Street) in Vancouver. My topic, “The Positive Potential of Caregiving: Surviving, Thriving and Finding Meaning” is part of the Tapestry Foundation for Health Care’s Dialogue on Aging Public Presentation Series. For more information contact www.tapestryfoundation.ca or by phone 604-877-8335.