Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Praise of Caregivers: Our Unsung Heroes

The following is a note from Melanoma Prayer Center:

There are two groups of people who deal intimately with melanoma: the patient and the patient's caregiver(s).  While "caregivers" technically may include the medical team looking after the patient, it more commonly refers to the dedicated people who attend to the patient's basic & personal needs that the patient can't tend to themselves and it's also the people who provide that needed intense support through the journey called "melanoma" or any other cancer. Usually these angels are spouses, parents, children, or the significant other of the patient and share a household.

Simply put, we can't do it without you. You are our rock, our strength, our shoulders, and our hankies. You absorb our fears and frustrations. You give us joy and keep us laughing when there seems to be so little to be joyful about or to laugh at. You help us throw our pity parties but you're the ones who know when it's time to clean up the party and get on with life. You change, clean, and do things you never thought you'd ever be doing for us and you do it with dignity, letting us keep ours. You do it with love and grace, reminding us minute-by-minute why we love you so. You give legs to "in sickness and in health" in ways you never imagined when you uttered those words.  Who knew one day you'd need to breathe live into that phrase? Yet you never left my side even when my side was messy.

You refuse to let us refuse. You keep us going. And, we keep you going. We kind of feed off each other: we need you and you need us.

You need us to beat the beast and win the fight so it becomes your fight too. In your own ways, you fight as hard as we do. It's just that your plan of attack looks a little different from ours. Both are necessary.

When we win, you win and we have to acknowledge that we didn't win alone. Our "normal" looks different and we have a new normal. We become stronger. Life and priorities change. Forever. And....

When we lay our battle down, you must carry on. Our fight ends but you can keep going for us, knowing that you did everything you possibly could and we saw superhuman abilities in you we didn't know you possessed and were sorry to be the one bringing that out in you but mighty grateful, at the same time, that you rose to the occasion.  You earned your crown! You now know better than many just how precious & short life is, so live your life to the absolute fullest and make the most of every moment.

At the risk of elevating you and making you sound like "God," please realize how much we see God in you. You reflect him beautifully. Paul's letter to the church in Corinth contains a passage that is often lifted out of context and read at weddings...and it fits. It is also used to help us understand God's nature because "God is Love," so we can substitute "God" where we read "love" and walk away with a somewhat clearer picture of him.

We can also read it and see you, our caregiver(s), shining through the words. You embody LOVE and we are grateful.

Because I like how The Message paraphrases this passage that's what I have here.

As you, dear caregiver, read this, hear profound "Thank yous!" As you, dear patient, read this, pause and give thanks for and to your caregiver. God's angel given to you. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)
The Way of Love
  If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.

 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

And I am forever grateful!