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Posts Tagged ‘caregiving’

This past couple of weeks has been nothing short of chaos.  Trying to get bulletins together, work on homilies, home communions, home visits, catching up with friends, scheduling medical appointments and surgical consultations.  And then there’s time needed for sleep.

This morning I drove to a community nearly an hour away.  I met a friend I had not seen in 10 years.  I wasn’t sure she would recognise me or that I would recognise her.  I was 15 minutes early and as I walked into the restaurant I saw her beautiful smile.  We hugged, she cried (she’s a crier) and were a flurry of hands and excited words…”been so long”…”how I’ve missed you”…”you look so good”…the poor server couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

We ordered our lunch, and continued talking. Yes, we did manage to eat while the food was hot, but more importantly, we reconnected, in a place where it seems we just pressed pause.  There was no awkwardness, there was no hesitation, we were simply two friends reconnecting after a decade.  Before we parted we set a date to meet again, in two months.  And on air I drove home. Through construction, ignorant drivers, road-blocks…none of it mattered.  Not even the migraine that had been plaguing me most of the day.

I got home and looked at the still unfinished pile of stuff on my dining room table.  And I turned my back on it.  I’m not afraid if the pile stays untouched.  I met my daughter-by-marriage as she got off the school bus and she chatted in 3 word sentences about her day.  “Didn’t do much”…”no homework, yeah!”…”where is Christmas?”  Every year my in-laws get together for a family Christmas.

Usually it’s held the first Saturday or Sunday in December, to coincide with Dutch Christmas and the coming of St. Nicholas and Black Peter.  I was in Florida so it has been rescheduled to this Sunday afternoon.  This Sunday is Advent IV.  There’s still so much to get ready for Christmas Eve.  But it will wait – I will not be afraid.

I went for a nap that ended up being 2 1/2 hours long.  My headache is not gone, but is much better. I decided to fold the bulletins for 4, 7, 11 pm Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, our Boxing Day baptism and Christmas I.  They are folded and at the Church.  For the first time ever, I came to Church in my pajamas.  Now granted, I wear PJ’s for the Pajama Mass every Christmas Eve at 4:00, but tonight I am here with bedhead, in a ratty old sweatshirt and flannel PJ bottoms.  And I’m not afraid.

I changed the sign outside and used the short-form Xmas.  I know I’ll get at least one message on the Church phone that I have done wrong.  But I am not afraid.

Sensing a pattern here?

I wrote my article for the local paper today that will be published on Tuesday as Wednesday, the usual publication day, is Christmas Eve.  In the article I talked about the appearance of angels and how they always say “be not afraid” to whomever they encounter.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  The angels that appeared in scripture were grown men, with wings, suspended.  THAT would be terrifying!

Angels delivered messages, not all of them good.  The angels in the Christmas story appeared first to Mary to tell her she would conceive a bear a son who would be the Messiah.  They appeared to Joseph to tell him the Mary’s baby was God’s and he would raise the child as his own. They appeared then to the Shepherds, announcing the amazing arrival of the newborn baby who would save the world!  And so they ran to see this remarkable thing that had happened.

Angels appear in both the old and new testaments.  Arguably, the angels heralding the arrival of the Messiah are the most memorable.  And as they trumpeted glad tidings, and called on their choir, they said simply “Be not afraid”.

So with all the busy-ness of this season, my desk is a mess and so is my office.  I will not be afraid.  The living room and dining room at home look like a fur covered bomb went off…and I will not be afraid.

There will be time for cleaning, but there will also be time for friends and family.  And together, unafraid, we will heed the words of the angels who gathered to announce the arrival.  The angels never said “clean your house first”, they said “be not afraid, I’ve got something awesome for you to see!”

So be it.

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All my life I have struggled with naming my emotions. As a child I was not allowed to be angry. Raised voices were a “no-no” in my house. We were to be bright, happy yet silent as children, an interesting combination.

As a child I learned to be a pleaser, and if my Mam or Dad were angry/upset, I would do everything I could to make them happy; overachiever, overworking, entertaining, being the clown, etc.

Growing up, if I was presented with an angry or upset person my first instinct was to make it better for them. Recently, I’ve found myself feeling a heightened sense of outrage at the injustice I see around me. I am experiencing emotions, without really understanding what they are.

For example, this morning I was driving in the village and as I approached one of the two intersections with traffic lights, I had the green light, so continued through the intersection. At that exact moment an elderly man was making a right hand turn against the red light. He did not see me. Thankfully I was able to stop before we collided.

As I sat in the intersection he gave me a disgusted look, yelled “bloody women drivers” and waved me through. I had stalled my car on an incline, so it took me a few seconds to get the car running again. Instead of waiting for me, he continued on his way, making a sharp right turn at the next street.

I was fuming, and felt that I had every right to be angry. But it wasn’t until several hours later that I could actually name the emotion of anger. I had every right to be angry. But I also had every right to be grateful that we did not collide and nobody was injured…other than egos and pride.

Lately I am realising that the predominant emotion I am feeling is anger…almost to the point of rage. By nature I am a caring person. I take satisfaction in doing for other people. It is in my vocation to give emotionally, spiritually, etc.

I believe part of the reason I am now on a medical leave is because I am feeling such great anger and frustration. I feel that many of the people in my life, especially in my immediate family, are taking much more than they are giving. Instead of seeing that I am doing for them because I want to, I am feeling anger that they are not reciprocating and/or they are not appreciative.

I am not supposed to do things to receive thanks. And yet, right now, it is something I need.

Why is that?

I am, by nature, an optimistic, balanced, happy person. But not lately. I’ve been surly, miserable and downright snarly. I raise my voice much more often, I feel an emptiness inside and I’m looking for something to fill it. Most often, it’s chocolate. But the thing is, the chocolate isn’t filling the void. It’s expanding my waistline.

Slowly it is dawning on me that I am looking for everyone else to make me happy, instead of seeking to make myself happy. I want everyone to behave the way I feel they should; instead of accepting them for who they are.

One of the most destructive enabling behaviours is the phrase “It’s just the way s/he is”. There is a parishioner who is a bully. He shouts, insults, bangs his fist on the table, in order to be heard and to get what he wants. It is hard work to deal with him. And when I challenge him on his bullying behaviour I am taken aside and told “It’s the just the way he is”, or “he’s much better than he used to be”. Neither of which are acceptable.

I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour and that everyone should do their best to understand how the other person is feeling. Seldom is this behaviour extended to me and, I have to admit, it upsets me.

Slowly but surely I am realising that there are very few things I can control. The only emotions I control are my own, especially once I name them and own them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with this great chart meant for children, to identify what it is they are feeling. I think I need one for my office, so I can identify what I am feeling. It’s strange to be 46 years old and unable to identify basic emotions.

Life is a learning curve and lately the curve has been steep.

If I were to make a list of the things that make me happy they would include taking a bike ride through the village; walking the dogs; doing yoga outside; yoga inside; dancing around the house like a fool; writing letters to friends; reading a novel; writing in my journal; taking a warm, soothing bath with epsom salts and baking soda; blogging.

As I look at this list, I realise I don’t do any of these things as often as I should.

I will do more things on that list on a more regular basis.

Starting now.

Some realisations that have come to me are: My happiness does not depend on anyone other than me.
I have every right to be angry and express that emotion. Further, I can express anger without guilt. I can disagree with someone without being a bad person. And if that person thinks I am a bad person, that is their emotion to own; not mine.

I do not have to be held hostage by a crippling fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. It never stopped Jesus. And aside from the crucifixion, it worked out alright for him (in the end).

I have been mired up in anxiety, angst, frustration, anger and rage. It’s time to do, say and live in a way that makes me happy.

That’s not selfish; it’s self-care, and self-loving.

So that will be what I focus on for the rest of 2014…and perhaps longer than that.

Starting now.

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In my job I am occasionally called on to listen while someone is in crisis. My usual reflex action was to listen, make noises (such as “Mm-Hmm” or “Yes, yes” etc) and to be thinking of what I was going to reply as the person was speaking. It was not usually effective and more often than not, left me feeling more anxious than when I sat down with the person.

Since I’ve started studying Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, I very aware of how I sit, how I come across, ensuring I am approachable and non-threatening.

A lady in my congregation is struggling with depression. She’s got anxiety that overwhelms and almost cripples her. She’s honoured me with her trust, in sharing when she’s in a shaky place and she’ll ask if she can come and have a chat. I always readily agree.

Recently she went on a cruise with her husband. A first for both of them. She was terribly fearful of the cruise, but knew it was important to her husband so she felt she had to go. The therapist she was seeing blamed her depression on her son’s suicide four years ago, and said that until she sorted herself out with that she would continue to be depressed. This therapist was not a good fit for her, and thankfully, she recognised that in herself.

What I do is not therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a priest, a spiritual advisor, and occasionally a confidante.

When she comes to see me, we sit in my office and I ask her how her day is going. She talks, and I listen. I may nod my head, but I don’t make affirming noises as they irritate me (so I can only imagine how irritating they are to the hearer) but I make sure to keep my focus on the person, without staring.

Often there are pauses. Sometimes she takes my hand or I take hers. Often there are tears. And through it all God is there. On Sunday, this lovely lady told me she wanted to resign from one of her multiple ministries in the Church. I accepted her resignation with sadness, but thankfulness and understanding.

She wanted to talk about the guilt she felt for “abandoning me” to that ministry. I listened to what she was saying and affirmed her gifts. I did not say “don’t be silly” because she’s already dealing with guilt. She doesn’t need to feel silly as well. When I told her of the ministries I saw her undertaking and loving service she had given the Church for several decades she brightened.

Someone had seen her…really seen her. She was being celebrated and honoured. And it will continue to happen. She has promised to continue as a resource for Parish information to me. She has promised if she doesn’t like the way I take on the ministry that she will tell me. And I have promised that she will always have my complete and utter support.

Tonight I am sitting down with a new friend who has been battered through his young life, by the Church. I am the first person of faith that he has reached out to in decades and I am both anxious and honoured to be meeting with him tonight. I have no agenda other than to listen. I will not take notes. I will be wholly and mindfully present.

I suspect there may be some tears. And lots of laughter as we have similar senses of humour. And at the end, perhaps there will be prayer.

I know that I am not God. I would not want God’s job. I’m too judgmental to be God.

I know that I am not Christ. I would not want Christ’s job. I’m too selfish to be Christ.

All I can be is me. All I can do is listen. And if, in being who I am, and listening as I do, I can help someone feel a little less lost, and little more found; then I have succeeded.

And it will be a good day.

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I have a confession to make…I don’t juggle. I used to be able to juggle two tennis balls if I concentrated really hard. But I don’t think I can do that anymore.

The new school year is upon us and the juggling game continues. My Mam has been visiting for the past week and while I enjoy having her here, she doesn’t seem to have the ability to spend more than an hour alone. It’s a litany of aches and pains, constantly checking her arms and legs, “does this look different to you?” and on and on.

My “job” is a vocation, which means on call 24/7, 365. I have to fit in other parts of my life around my job. It should be the other way around, but it’s not. Most of the time I handle all that stuff pretty well, but lately, it seems like it’s been more work and harder than it needs to be.

For example. My daughter by marriage and I had a conversation before the start of school about what she wanted for breakfasts and lunches. She’s a fussy eater and it takes some cajoling to get her to try new things. So we have a list of foods that she will eat for breakfast and/or lunch. She makes her own lunches and I usually take care of breakfast. The first day of school she left her lunch bag at school. So we had to scramble to find another one when she overslept this morning. By the time I got her lunch packed and her out the door she made it with only a couple of minutes to spare before the school bus came.

Then there was laundry. I wanted to do my laundry, and there was my husband’s work laundry in the dryer. He’s great at starting things, but seldom finishes them. I could leave it for him to finish, but I don’t because I need to get my laundry, or bedding for the house, or towels, etc., done. So I finish his before I start mine.

Then there’s my Mam who wants to go visit her friend. I told her I had to go to the office first and would take her afterwards. She gave me an hour at the office then she walked over to see when we were going to see her friend, and should we go out for breakfast first. So I stopped what I was doing and we went out for breakfast.

So now I’m hours behind in my housework, hours behind in my office work and not enough time to prepare for a meeting tonight because I still have to get dinner ready. Where’s the rest of my family? Husband is at work, daughter is doing homework and mother is sleeping.

So, I will go to a meeting tonight only partially prepared and it will bug me far more than it does anyone else. But that’s how I roll. I like things to be finished. I like things to be prepared and ready.

Juggling? I don’t think so.

BUT tomorrow is another day. I am hoping that the kitchen will be cleaned up while I am at the meeting. I am hoping I can come in from the meeting, have a long soak in a hot bath and then go to bed.

The reality may be very different. But there is always hope. I live in a little place called Hope. I like it there and they know me.

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I have a parishioner in hospital who is 92. His circulation is poor and he’s in a great deal of pain. A well-meaning friend of his insisted he go into hospital and has taken over deciding what he needs and what he doesn’t. I went to visit him yesterday and he was sleeping. I gently woke him and we spent some time together.

With his permission, I anointed him with oil, we prayed, and shared communion. The entire time he was crying because he doesn’t want to live this way anymore. His wife of 72 years died nearly two years ago and he’s been bereft since. My heart aches for him because he wants to die. He’s not suicidal, he’s simply had enough of life and wants to be with his beloved.

When I was getting ready to go, I asked if he wanted a final prayer and he said yes. So we prayed for God to comfort him, to bring him peace and, if it be His will, to call this man home. H cried harder and said “please” over and over again. I held his hand, I kissed his forehead and I said I would be back later in the week to see him.

I pray that he will slip peacefully away and rejoin his beloved. That he will be called soon into the arms of God and be free of pain and suffering.

On Wednesday we will gather at the Church to celebrate the life of R. She was a feisty lady who was a school teacher, raised four children and looked after her husband when he had a debilitating accident. She cared for him at home for as long as she could, and when he died, she threw herself into the volunteer world in our community, receiving a Volunteer of the Year award about five years ago.

The last two years of her life have not been good, as she’s been struggling with health issues. She died in hospital and that would have bothered her greatly as she would have preferred to die at home, the retirement residence she moved to a year or so ago.

On Saturday I will be baptising a two month old baby boy at his grandparents home. Traditionally baptisms are done in a Church setting, but his grandmother has ALS and is confined to her home. Her daughter and son-in-law were married two years ago in the backyard, so that is where we will baptise her grandson. It will be a beautiful and poignant day as we will gather for the beginning of her grandson’s spiritual life, as she faces the premature end of her life.

There are times when I get angry with God for letting people suffer. And while I shouldn’t likely be angry with God because there is always a plan, I WILL get angry when people suffer needlessly.

I will miss H, I do miss R and I will miss C. And while it will be difficult, and has been difficult to let them go, I know I must, as it is God’s turn to hold them safe and comfort them.

And as for me, I, thankfully have many who hold me safe. So while I will be emotionally fragile for the next little while, I know that God is with me, every step of the way, bringing hope with every tear that is shed; love with every hug that is exchanged; and peace with every bought of laughter.

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Yesterday the community gathered to say farewell to a lovely man who had lived a very good life. The last couple of years were not good ones, his health was fragile and he lived in constant pain. About three weeks ago he told his wife he was ready to die…not in a morbid way, but because he felt he didn’t want to live in pain anymore.

We used to get together for coffee about three times a year. We went to the local coffee shop and his friends would be there, watching every move he made. I enjoyed talking with him as he often shared stories of his family, beaming with pride at his three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was proud of each and every one of them, and made each and every one of them feel like they were special.

The church was overflowing with people. We ran out of bulletins, and worship space, so chairs had to be brought in and set up. A friend and colleague who is in a wheelchair co-presided the service with me and he was a tremendous source of strength during the service. As the eulogies were offered, I sat on the chancel steps to be closer to my friend. Two of the great-grandchildren, ages 2 and 4 came and played on the chancel steps. I got to play too. It was awesome.

As the grandchildren and children got up to speak they each spoke of the legacy their grandfather/father left them. The legacy of stories. The legacy of practical jokes. The legacy of witty sayings and pithy statements. The legacy of family. The legacy of service. The legacy of love.

When I was preaching I made a plea for someone to pick up the ministry of service that my parishioner had done. He had volunteered at a soup kitchen in the city and that is how he met my colleague and friend. At the graveside his brother and sister-in-law tapped me on the shoulder and said they wanted to pick up the mantel of legacy – the legacy of service.

And so, as we interred the remains of one of the kindest and gentlest men who lived, his brother picked up the mantel of service. The shoes he will fill are quite large. But he will do it, his way.

The longer I say in this community, the closer I become to the people. The more our stories intertwine, the greater the honour of the journey. I have been present as couples exchange vows, as children and adults are baptised, and as a soul leaves this life for the next one. We have celebrated lives, cried bitter tears of loss, laughed at silly jokes, and known through it all that we are richer for lessons we have learned. Lessons of legacy.

Rest in peace my dear friend. May you feel the arms of Jesus surround you. May you enter into the heavenly choirs of angels and be amongst the saints in heaven who watch out for us mere mortals, here on earth.

Thank you for the legacies you have left for us. We will do you proud.

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I find it very interesting how weather can affect the mood of a group. This past Sunday was our annual meeting where the budget is presented as well as ongoing and upcoming projects.

We have experienced a changing of the guard as both Wardens and Deputy have changed, and yet, the council members are the same, simply with some in different roles than last year.

The weather was overcast and dreary and the mood of the room was subdued. We had a lot of good news to celebrate, but the energy didn’t seem to be there. The Holy Spirit was very present, but I think she was tired too.

Since then I’ve had two long days of driving to pick up my mother who hurt her hand and is need of someone to care for. So now my days are busy. They’re always busy, but this is a different busy because of elder care.

It’s interesting to be part of the ‘sandwich generation’ as I have a 12 year old daughter by marriage and a 76 year old mother. sometimes their care is the same, and at other times each is responsible for the other. Thanks be to God they like each other and enjoy each other’s company.

The past couple of days have been wet and rainy, very unusual weather for January in Southwestern Ontario. The church basement took on some water, as did the rectory basement, but no damage (at least it appears so).

Today is the kind of day where I have a lot to do, but don’t really feel like doing any of it. The elevator inspector is at the church and I have some administrative things to finish, paperwork to get together from our annual meeting.

I think, once this is done, that I’ll go home, make something for lunch and make out a grocery list. Then it may be bath time and an afternoon nap. These 12 hour days have been taking a toll, and I think the weather is Mother Nature telling me that it’s okay to rest my weary body.

Yoga tonight should help get the kinks out. But mostly a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and a chat with my mother. All good things.

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