It reminds me to say a quick CARE prayer if my mother is calling me. It helps me manage the emotional reaction of fear or panic, because she only calls if something is wrong.
When I see the stained glass windows of my mother's page in my phone directory, I have taught myself to pray for C.A.R.E. now:
C for Compassion - A for Acceptance - R for Readiness - E for Energy
Compassion means concern for the troubles of another. Of another. It takes grace and effort when the expected and unexpected duties call. It requires selflessness. Not easy. But without the grace of compassion, emotions that come in its stead are internally damaging. Anger? Resentment? Set them aside when in the throws of service and pray for simple compassion.
Acceptance means to assume an obligation, to receive. Our degree of willingness to receive the obligations of caregiving most certainly vary from day to day, even moment-to-moment. But when each duty calls, the best path to serenity is surrendering to acceptance.
Readiness means prepared and available. I now try to view being ready as remembering to expect the unexpected. Regardless of the patterns that have fooled me into thinking certain things are predictable, there will always be periods of change. I must stay ready to serve. Yet additionally, I can have other service providers ready in my absence.
Energy in its simplest defintion means effort and capacity for action. Praying for energy includes asking for help when the best decision might involve action and service assistance from others. In my meaning of energy, it also includes empathy. This brings the CARE acronym and prayer full circle, as it brings me back to commiting to the energy of trying to feel the feelings of the person in my care.
CARE came to me after experiencing what happened the day before Christmas eve this year. We'd just picked my mother up the evening before for our family Christmas and she was fine. But now it's the next morning and she's having trouble breathing. My immediate reaction was a familiar form of panic...hurry! Last time she almost died. My own breathing grows more shallow. Drop everything. Jump in the car. Drive to her place. I'm speeding on the inside but being careful to drive carefully on the winter roads. Got my set of her keys? Check. Brisk walk up to her apartment door. Wheel chair needed? No, not this time. Escort her to the passenger side of my car. Drive. Carefully. Stop the temptation to speed.
Pull up to ER door, illegally park so close I feel like I'm almost through the glass. Check in at ER desk. Rush back to car so it's parked in legitimate space. Run back into ER from parking space. Everything seems in fast motion until we're "placed" in our own ER room. Then the pace slows to a crawl. Her breathing problem is determined to not be an emergency. It needs attention and treatment, yes, but the tests happen in bad movie-like slow motion. EKG, then wait an hour. Chest x-ray. Another hour? The four blank walls of the ER room start to seem like a prison cell. In between the next four hours there's more tests: blood, urine, BP, walking, oxygen, IV - no, wait - the IV was done in the first hour. In the fourth hour, the IV tube was used to administer the extra medication.
It's not pneumonia this time. Good! But fluid on the lungs are caused by "some" congestive heart failure. How much is "some?" I never find out. "Come on, non-medical brain," I scold myself. "Ask all the right questions!" Be her ears; she can't hear well. The medical people seem to never catch on to that. I tell them the obvious, "She can't hear you. Could you speak up?" I feel so alone. Anger lurks.
What's the determination? Admit into the hospital, or released back to the freedom and fearfulness of home? Only the doctor can tell us, but he's vanished. We're assured he'll return soon (maybe when he's come back from the prom, I find myself thinking - when did doctors get so young?). Ah! He's back. I wonder where he parked his prom tux? The pronouncement is made, "You'll be going home."
Bless the caretakers of the world. They give infinite physical and emotional care. Their unexpected journeys take them to places in the heart they never knew were there.
I know new dimensions of myself now. Some of them are painful. Nothing is predictable. So I find ways to be creative to help me focus on the elements of this journey that must be the priorities.
CARE is a much bigger word than I ever knew. It has multiple definitions, including, "a person or thing that is an object of anxiety or solicitude." As a caregiver, I recognize that phenomenon, but don't want it to be what defines my caregiving existence. What I find more helpful is to embrace "watchful attention" and "to feel interest" as the definitions on which to focus. That brings some balance and a heightened ability to say my CARE prayer and receive it's ingredients when I need them most.
May you find Compassion, Acceptance, Readiness, and Energy on your caregiving journey. Mom is doing better. So am I. Thank God, C.A.R.E. came into my prayer life. God Bless You. Take care!