A caregiver’s greatest asset is being able to marshal the emotional strength when all evidence would suggest the well has run dry. When the very idea of placing one foot in front of the other seems like a Herculean task, the ability to persevere must come from that sacred place within us.
One of the most recurrent themes in literature and cinema is the idea of the protagonist, with all possibilities for a successful outcome of their quest extinguished, discovering within themselves the wellspring of courage and ability that propels them on to victory. Fortunately we all have this ability, and as caregivers, we will at some point, need to open up a supply line for emotional and spiritual reinforcements.
Prayer is so sweet in its appeal, because at its most basic, it is simply an invocation, a request for support when we can freely admit our frailty.
For prayer to be authentic, we must be able to recognize the limitation of our current circumstances and in so doing, we become vastly open to the possibilities that lie dormant deep within ourselves.
Prayer also asks something of us that is so essential to the process of growth during times of tribulation: The act of praying requires that we be open to the presence of something greater than ourselves.
It does not even necessarily ask that we believe in anything, just that we are “willing to be open” to the possibility. In that willingness there is great potential!
To pray is to come to rest in a knowing that transcends what we thought we knew. It has been said that all roads that lead to God are good, yet I wonder if we should say that all roads that lead FROM God are good.
That loss has been compared to a fish swimming in the ocean wondering where he can find the water. We are, by the very nature of our birth, divine and can never be anything but. Prayer allows us to come to rest in that knowledge.
As a caregiver I understand the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and despair; and yet I have also experienced the ascendency of courage, faith and understanding as they bubbled up through the thick fog of defeat. I freely admit that sometimes, these virtues feel way beyond my reach, but never have they failed to re-emerge when they were needed most.
I was having a particular hard time dealing with Linda’s decline. On that day I was heartbroken because Linda did not recognize her sister. I left the house for a drive and as I drove, I found myself sobbing in a way that I had never before. I began screaming as loudly as I could “I can’t do this; it’s too much for me to handle!” My mind was racing with thoughts of defeat, resentment and failure. I was filled to capacity, there was no room for light, or so it felt. Suddenly, from someplace within myself that was beyond the noise and suffering, I heard a voice speak clearly and authoritatively, and it said, “You are not alone, We will do this together”. In that very moment, I felt all fear, sadness and resentment lift, replaced by a calm that was so deep it felt surreal. I was stunned into silence and grateful for the experience and it took days before I could speak about it to anyone.
It occurred to me that my state of absolute surrender was in itself a prayer. My tears were an offering that were received and responded to.
I cannot say that experience was the beginning of daily revelations of such magnitude, but I can say, that my life did change in that moment.
I continue to offer up my struggle and ask for strength. I continue to pray. In a sense, my whole life has become a prayer that this experience, for me and for Linda, serves to evoke from us something of a higher order.
Maybe it’s as simple as the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s song, “When you feel your life’s too hard, just go have a talk with God.”