This quote is usually attributed to Tia Walker, co-author of The Inspired Caregiver. It is a lovely quote, one to which we can all agree when taken at face value. It has become a meme passed along on social media. Shared both by people who are caregivers and by those who care about them.
Let me be frank; it’s not enough to care for someone by simply sharing a meme to show you care. It is, in fact, barely more than an empty gesture.
It is not my intent to criticize those who post this quote. I am all in favor of recognizing the challenges of a friend. I certainly want to see more awareness about caregiving. I am just urging you to stop liking these posts and then moving on to more interesting political banter or photos of new babies, cute animal video clips while forgetting what is behind the honor of caregiving.
You see, most of the time we honor someone when their work is finished. We honor the heroic acts of soldiers and first responders, the life’s work of scientists, doctors, and artists, or the dedication of public servants. It is well and good to honor these people because they make our life better and safer.
The honor of caregiving is not for past work; it is for present grief. Caregivers grieve over what their loved one has lost, whether that is mobility, memory, or freedom. Caregivers grieve over what they have gained, whether that is a new responsibility, new stress, or new decisions. This all happens out of sight and out of mind.
Given the opportunity, we would all stand and watch in awe as a firefighter rescued an occupant from a burning house. We share video clips of people applauding soldiers at airports. We even honor elected officials who have worked hard for our community with our votes. But few people want to watch caregiving.
Who wants to see someone being helped to the toilet? Who wants to applaud the cleaning of an apartment that reeks of rotting food and urine? Who wants to videotape a caregiver wandering with a loved one, lost in dementia, around the purposely endless halls of a memory care center?
These are not the heroic feats we seek to document, but they are heroic none-the-less.
Right now, there are adult children caring for parents, parents caring for adult children, spouses caring for each other, neighbors caring for neighbors. There are also parents caring for disabled children and children caring for disabled parents, sometimes disabled by mental illness. These heroic acts happen everywhere and are completed by people who would love to have a “care”-free life as long as it still involved the loved one they care for.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10
God sees these acts of honor. He sees caregivers sacrificing to provide health and safety to another person. He notes their stress, their weariness, and He provides them with the strength they need when they think they cannot handle one more act of heroism.
But this truth does not let us off the hook. For those of us who are not living the day-to-day life of a caregiver, we have work to do, also. We can find useful ways to honor those who care for others.
We can serve God by providing respite. Can you stay with a loved one allowing the caregiver to practice self-care?
We can serve God by offering the work of our hands. Can you mow a lawn, do some laundry, take care of grocery shopping, or drive to a doctor’s appointment?
We can serve God by providing support. Can you be an accountability partner for a caregiver and commit to regular contact for emotional check-ups?
We can serve God by speaking up. Are there social, or even political situations where you can speak up and inform people about the needs of caregivers?
We can serve God by praying for those who honor a loved one in their care. When you lift someone up in daily prayer, you not only intercede for the subject of your prayer, but you ask God to keep this person in mind so you can see and meet occasional needs. In this way we move them from our phone into our hearts.
Together we can do more than “like” a meme. We can remind caregivers of the hope promised in scripture; the hope that is the certain truth that God loves them enough to send Jesus as their Savior and to send the help they need, now.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22
Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journeyby Kim Marxhausen
available at Concordia Publishing House