Care comes in all different forms.
Professional care partners, such as personal support workers, give one level of care, and they are needed for the hands-on care for people who can't perform the activities of daily living on their own.
Not everyone who needs care is unable to brush their own teeth or dress themselves. Today, I am thinking about a person who has lost a loved one recently. For at least the first year, and often much longer, they need special care that is sensitive and understanding. Ministering to someone who is grieving is not acting as a traditional care partner, but the care is at least as important. And you may be the only person who can give it.
When my first husband died, I felt lost. I had been a wife for thirty years, and I had no idea how to be a widow. The tax office asked me questions. I had no answers, and started to cry. The bank wanted to know things. I didn't know what they wanted, and started to cry. The insurance company...well, you get the picture. I functioned at work, but when I came home, I wandered aimlessly through the house, not able to focus. I could see what needed to be done, but I had no idea how to start.
I'm not normally like this. I am organised and have lists, both in my head and on paper. I accomplish things. At that time, my head felt like it was full of quilt batting, and pushing it aside to accomplish my daily tasks required tremendous effort. Beyond the normal activities, there are mountains of assignments associated with death. Cards and social insurance numbers and driver's licences and a multitude more need to be cancelled and government departments informed. In my case, money was tied up and bills needed to be paid, and that was a worry. Each day, I felt like I was slugging through heavy mud, just to stay in the same place.
But I had care partners. Two friends decided together to go out to dinner with me around all the "firsts." My birthday, his birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day--every date that might be significant and difficult, we got together in a local restaurant. Sometimes I wanted to talk and sometimes I didn't, and both were fine.
One friend took me with her while she did errands, so I wouldn't have to spend every night alone. Both of them took on the monumental task of helping me organise a garage sale. They were there, even when they weren't physically in the room. There came a time when I needed the support less, but by that time, we decided meeting for dinner was great for all of us, and it became a monthly event.
Years passed. I remarried, and with the help of another friend, they organized my wedding. We continued to meet every month. Then this year, in the spring, the unthinkable happened. The husband of one of my friends fell down a set of stairs and, after five days, he died. Not having any warning that life was going to take this tragic turn, she was stunned. Several months later she said, "I'm just beginning to believe this isn't a bad dream I'm going to wake up from."
So, we meet each month. Sometimes she wants to talk, and sometimes not, and both are fine. Last Saturday, we put up her Christmas tree (a job her husband always did) and ate pizza together. We laughed at the antics of her new puppy, because even in the midst of intense pain, laughter is possible.
I have been called to be both the cared for and the care partner. It's made me aware of those around me. As Christmas nears, take stock of those you know. Are there people who need you to come alongside--to have dinner together, to listen or to organise a garage sale?
Are you being called to be a different kind of care partner?