She spent hours seemingly every day in endless doctor’s office waiting rooms.
After she drives him home, she will prepare his food, do his laundry, set out his medicines,and clean up his tiny apartment. Later from her own home, she will work the phones with social service agencies, home care, and nursing services to make sure he gets the care he needs.
She’s bone tired. She tries to mask the exhaustion, but her voice betrays her. And tomorrow she will get up and do it all over again.
Because he is her brother and her only sibling. And his health is failing.
He has no one else to take care of him. In many ways, he is as helpless as a child.
Two days ago she got the phone call she knew was coming, but still dreaded. He had died that morning in the shower.
She sent his sports coat to the dry cleaners, and went to the funeral home to make the necessary arrangements.
There is no time to grieve, No time to mourn. Being a caregiver doesn’t end when the life of the person receiving the care ends.
Caregivers aren’t superheroes. They are fragile, with feelings and emotions that often stay bottled up out of necessity for survival.
Their own lives are often on hold, or sacrificed for the needs of those they attend to and care for.
They often take emotional and verbal abuse from their loved ones who react out of their own hurt and fear.
It’s a thankless, gut-wrenching role, that of a caregiver.
Why does she do it? Why does she keep on laying down her own needs and life to take care of an elderly brother? Especially a brother that many in this world had marginalized.
Love. Unconditional love.
A love that makes all of heaven stand up and take notice. A love that makes angels break out in applause. A love most humans don’t understand.
But he is her brother. And more importantly, he matters to God. And if he matters to God, he matters to her.
Pure religion the writer of James calls it. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
Their parents long ago left this world, so in a sense he too was an orphan.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
In my 49 years of life, I have had many occasions to admire and respect my mother.
She went back to school when I was a teenager and earned her doctorate. She had a stellar career in education. She instilled in me many of my core values- faith, work ethic, morality, family first, and a sense of honor.
Today though as we bury my uncle, I have never been more proud or respectful of her.
Perhaps, in my uncle’s final days, she has taught me one of the greatest lessons in humanity.
I don’t know if my uncle ever really appreciated or expressed his thanks to my mom.
So I will. Thank you for your example, and your lesson to your son.
By the way, the lesson was not lost on your daughter either. She’s just like her mother.
Family. It’s what we do.