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.