Day 30: The Campaign Has Ended, The Journey Continues

Oh…You’re the Good Son,” the woman said to me.

“The good son?”  I puzzledly asked.

“The woman had been grinning.  My mom told her how I brought her to live with me when she got sick and how much I do for her.”  She said I would “get my reward in heaven.”

 

On this final day of November, the close of National Family Caregiver’s Month, I was poised to share my personal caregiving story with all of you in caregiver nation, and to remind you that you are not alone on your journey.  Change of plans.

Back on November 1st, I published a letter addressing caregivers everywhere. With it I hoped to do my part to help the world recognize the amazing work you do, and begin to understand the many challenges involved in the role of caregiver.  The letter struck a chord, and I was humbled to receive many letters and emails in response detailing your personal caregiving stories. With every letter shared, I felt a connection to you. I felt part of your story. But it was a letter from John R. of Virginia that affected me most.

Quoted above, John’s letter was a reflection on his experience caring for his mother, who has since passed away.  For all of us immersed in this caregiving journey, our experiences are unique and our stories are distinctly our own.  With one exception – all of our journeys will one day come to an end.

Family caregivers deserve to be recognized and supported, and thanks to legislative efforts like the CARE act and RAISE Family Caregivers act, as well as an increase in the availability of caregiver-focused programs at the state and local level across the nation, we caregivers are increasingly part of the care conversation. As encouraging as this progress is in helping current caregivers, John’s letter was a reminder that when a caregiver’s journey ends their daily responsibilities stop, but there remains work to be done. 

Finding a “new normal,” the term often used to describe navigating life after loss, is easier said than done. John is still, years later, striving to find the rhythm of his new life.  I am searching for mine after the recent passing of my beloved Aunt Nora. I’m sure that many of you reading this are in the midst of the experience right now, and many more will be soon.

Find solace in the fact that this next journey, this struggle to reacclimate after caregiving, does not have to be a journey you take alone.  We have each other.

“I see someone pushing an older woman in a wheel chair and think…that used to be me.  I sit in a quiet doctor’s office waiting room and think…my mom could liven this crowd up. I get ready to go someplace and…my arm reaches out to assist someone who’s not there.  I sob watching Long Island Medium.”

“I had to find my way again.  While caring for her, I knew exactly what to do every day, week, month and year, but now I seemed lost.”

“There’s a scene in Forrest Gump – Forrest tells someone that his momma always said you’ve got to put the past behind you, before you can move on.”

To those caring now, to those that will soon take on this role and to those that already have, there’s a place in my heart for each of you.  And just like John’s Mom said, “you will get your reward.”

-John R

 

God Bless,

Tom Riley

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