Regardless of the specifics, illness and death are tragic to all affected by them. At some point in all of our lives we will be directly impacted by these dark horses. Sometimes bad things happen without warning and leave us wracked with almost unendurable shock before the pain of the situation even has time to affect us. Other times, tragedy occurs slowly; relentlessly and methodically destroying anything in its path.
When someone dies, you often hear one of their loved ones reminisce about the last words they said before whatever 'it' is happened. Sometimes it's 'I love you,' other times it's, 'I wish I wouldn't have said that.' Sometimes people are thankful for their last words. Other times they are filled with regret. Either way...they remember...they always remember.
I have no idea what my last words to my dad were. I don't remember his last words to me. The thing about dementia is that my dad has been slowly dying for the last ten years. Like a classic Greek sculpture being slowly chipped away, my dad's brain is no longer recognizable, and has more in common with crumbled marble and dust than a beautiful bust.
Dad was always so obsessive compulsive about me finding a wife...kind of like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof except I'm a guy and we're not Jewish. He would always ask me when I was going to get married. My dad was a minister so over the years I watched him perform the wedding ceremonies of so many people in my family...Dad couldn't do mine. I wish I could tell him I found the one. Well, I did, but he didn't understand...I don't think. I still talk to him and tell him I love him when I see him...I just wish I could remember my last conversation with my dad. -Chad Bozarth
As I have stated in other posts, I have been caring for my husband in some form or fashion for the last ten years. June 17th was his birthday, he turned 67. Diagnosed at 57... so young, so much life to live, and so much still to accomplish. Because of his birthday, this inauspicious anniversary has been fresh in my mind for the last few days; a decade in the on-going saga of this thankless endeavor called, 'caregiver.' This is a title no one ever strives for, it is assigned without any fanfare or preparation.
The emotional roller coaster for the caregiver throws us from side to side and up and down with relentless movement. A brief lull may occur, hardly time to catch our breath, and the wild ride begins its violent motion once again. The one thought, or prayer, if you will, is “When will this wild ride end...I want to get off!” And then, of course, following quickly behind that thought, is the guilt that accompanies our ever waking moment and accusing voices in our head, that reiterates deep seated thoughts of inadequacies and weaknesses. I need oxygen! A friend gave me a bracelet with a little charm on it that simply says, “Just Breathe.” It's surprising sometimes just how much effort it seems to take to just do that.
I really don't mean to complain, that is not my intention. I simply want to help those of you that are watching from the outside gain a little clarity of those of us that are in the midst of this carnival ride...understanding brings comfort.
The other morning my husband looked as if he was taking a downward spiral almost to the point I thought I might need to call in the family...the situation passed. The interesting thing that came from that early morning event is that the thing I thought I wanted caused in me an unexpected panic at the realization of the loss that might be at hand. It is at times like these that I have come to the conclusion it is a lose/lose scenario for some of us. The on-going care is draining but the reality of the loss of his physical presence brought about a lament in my heart that was seismic. It may seem to be lose/lose for me but it would be a win for him to transition out of a mind and body that refuses to engage...in that I must find comfort when this roller coaster ride coasts to a final stop.
Suffering is such a strange phenomenon. I'm the type of person who loves attention. If I'm sick, I want everyone to know so that they can "baby" me. I'm talking, if I have a cold I want you to know. Thank God everyone isn't like me. The world would be a pretty annoying place. My roommate in college was the complete opposite. When he would get sick, he would just go lock himself away in his room and wouldn't come out until he was feeling better. I remember one time, when I was sick, I was at home at my parent's house. I was always somewhat of a mama's boy. I wasn't feeling good so my mom graciously rubbed my feet. Well, my best friends happened to walk into my room while she was doing this. Needless to say, it wasn't cool. Yes, they made fun of me. I guess they thought I was a wimp. I don't really care. I got a free foot rub. Anyway, the point of the story is that different people respond to suffering differently. That's fine.
Dealing with suffering, the last ten years or so, I've noticed something more sinister that can easily creep in if you're not careful. I suppose being a crybaby isn't too big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. However, I have begun to notice something far more concerning in me over the years. I'm talking about judging others who, in my opinion, haven't suffered or rather haven't suffered at the level of severity I feel I have. Oh, it's sneaky and it will disguise itself as something more refined or spiritual like "wisdom," but actually it's just disgusting pride. I begin to turn up my nose at people who haven't gone through what I have. I mean any "suffering" they have experienced or think they have experienced I view as a mere hangnail compared to how I feel. My mind begins to rehearse lies and half truths like, Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. I'd like to say "Walk a mile in my shoes baby." "You don't know me," etc., etc., etc. "Who do you think you are?" "You've been in the rain." "You've never been in a storm." And so on and so forth the thoughts go as I methodically cut down anyone I deem "unworthy" in my mind.
Everybody has a story. Everybody has a storm. Maybe you just don't know about it. There's an old saying that goes something like, "treat everyone you meet with grace and kindness for everyone you meet is fighting a battle."
Does adversity give you a platform, a voice? You bet it does. But don't become prideful in your heart. Everyone is fighting a battle. Show your scars to help others heal not to reject them from your little club of worthy sufferers. -Chad Bozarth