Stretching the Soul through Caretaking
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I grew up never thinking about becoming a caretaker. It never occurred to me that as the only girl child, that I had been elected to be the family caretaker.
It began when my 38 year old brother died. My parents were well into their 70s and because he lived in Las Vegas, my brother and I flew out to settle his affairs.
One year later, my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer. She was allegedly a "good candidate" for surgery, to have part of her liver removed and hopefully they could remove the cancer.
She had the surgery, appeared to be gaining her strength back, but early one morning, she began to bleed internally. She slipped into unconsciousness while the paramedics were on the way, and later died in the emergency room.
My 83 year old father developed a drop leg at the funeral, and within 6 month he was living with me.
I was quite overwhelmed with caretaking. I found myself completely unprepared for the call. I prayed my way through it.
My father was an alcoholic his whole life, and there were times where I hated him and times when I tolerated him. But having become his caretaker, as he weakened in age, I was able to see another side of him.
I didn't want to take care of my father and resented my mother for dying and leaving him to me. I was only 40 at the time.
I prayed for help. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I came to realize what "blooming where you are planted" means. I decided early on that I would care for my dad as if he were Jesus himself. Or St. Joseph. I cared for my dad with my love of God, my love of Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit, the love of Jesus transferred to my dad. Through the care and devotion I paid to my dad, his heart softened and I became very close to him and I was with him until the very end.
Looking back, I am proud of myself for having risen to the occasion. I also know that I was incapable of caretaking on my own. I needed God's help and he was there for me.
I realize now that it was a journey that took me very deeply into other forms of love -- care, devotion, friendship, patience, and I met other people on the same deep journey.
Caretaking made me into a better person, better able to see the deep needs of other people. It was the hardest period of my life, but it was the greatest stretch of my soul. I am a better person because of it.
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