Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tender Moments: CAREgiving...

 I never wanted to be a nurse or a mother but became both as a caregiver to my brother, mom and husband.  As I type this, I hear these words echo in my mind:  If you wanna' make God laugh tell'em your plans and I can't help but chuckle.  Here I was this take-charge entrepreneur who knew how to get shit done, to make tough choices, to create solutions overcoming whatever challenges I faced.  Then, cancer came knocking.

My brother, Michael, was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer almost 10 years ago.  Our first conversation was purely strategic, mapping out the plan of how to fight this fight and beat it.  I could do this all day long.  This was my comfort zone.  And I was actually good at researching and asking questions, advocating for my brother.  But soon, I would discover that there was no fixing, managing or controlling the big C.

I found myself in new territory, surrendering my manic drive to solve the problem and going into my heart and soul.  From this space, I could be present to Michael, asking his wants and desires and wishes and listening with no judgment, doing everything in my power; I was absolutely there in the moment with him to serve in any way that he needed.  My agenda was out the window as it would only create a barrier and he needed all of me.

His anger, his fear, his resentment, his humor, his laughter, his coping tools, his moments of crazy and terror - I could hold space for all of it.  Nothing was too big.  And this was absolutely beyond me as the heavens intervened and took my stubborn will that had served me well but just wasn't useful under these circumstances.  

He would thank me for being with him, his wife and his sons.  I was struck by his gratitude as I knew I was being given a gift that would transform my life, teaching me the power of my presence, the miracle of being fully with another human being when he is most vulnerable. 

There is such wisdom on the death bed!  The person transitioning from this life to the after life is deeply connected to the essence of who they truly are: the soul. And in his connection, Michael helped me dip my toe into this healing water that freed and nourished like nothing else.  He cut through the crap that often bogs down our lives, experienced profound clarity, appreciated the precious gift of this life and all life, said whatever needed to be said and inspired those who were privileged to witness him become more alive as he was dying.  The last 6 months of Michael's life, we were so in the moment, we lived lifetimes within days.  It was heartbreaking AND it was AWEsome.

I would never have wished for Michael's illness and ultimately his death, but I am eternally grateful for the experience that showed me I am far more than I knew I was.  I may have never wanted to be a mother or a nurse but LOVE would motivate me to do what was put in front of me.

**Below is a story of caregiving for my mom.  I have a million and one stories but really love the tenderness of this experience and I hope you feel this too.

Tender Moments excerpt from my book:                          

My brother Michael died on a Wednesday afternoon, and Mom almost followed him two days later. She had a urinary tract infection that had caused sepsis. Her friend Carolyn had stopped by early that morning on her way to work and found Mom crawling around, her nightgown covered in feces; she was too weak to stand even with her walker. By the time we got her to the hospital, her kidneys were shutting down, so they did all that they could to kill off the infection. Antibiotics saved her life by clearing her body of the bad bacteria, but they also took away the good bacteria that prevent infection. A few days after she returned home, she was experiencing chronic diarrhea, which turned out to be C. difficile bacteria that had entered her colon as a result of her treatment for sepsis. She was hospitalized again for another week.

When we got Mom home, she was listless, bones with skin covering them. We had to hold her up and walk her from the bathroom to the sofa and in the evening to the bed. The doctors encouraged her to eat whatever she could get down, but the fear of it coming out the other end seized her appetite.

I was bathing her as she sat naked on a peach cotton towel that covered the toilet lid. She thanked me in an exhausted whisper. I was nervous about embarrassing her, so her thank-you helped soothe my anxiety. As I was rinsing the wash cloth in the bathroom sink, she told me that she had bathed her mom in this same spot 20 years before. She went on to say that her mom hated that she had to be bathed by her daughter. I listened. She gently thanked me again as I placed her nightgown over her head. Tears streamed down her face as silence fell. I said, “You must miss your mom,” to which she nodded in agreement. I understood, because I missed mine, too.

In the midst of mourning my mom of yesterday, I felt more powerfully than ever before the circle of life. It was an honor to care for her in such a vulnerable state, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. She not only trusted me; she thanked me for doing what daughters do. This was my thank-you to her.

1 comment:

  1. That's very nice of you, Kathy. Nothing is impossible out of love. Being a caregiver is never easy, especially when you're dealing with your loved ones. It's painful to see how they are suffering. That's why I really admire you and the inspiration you have brought. I hope others would realize too how satisfying it is to take care of our loved ones without expecting anything in return.

    -Heal at Home Care