Monday, June 11, 2007

Change and Transformation: The Ongoing Balance of Life



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Just three weeks ago, I posted about being a member of the sandwich-generation, the middle years when one is still parenting at home, but caring for elders, either in or outside of the home, as well. I talked about one aunt by marriage in a nursing home, an aunt and an uncle in crisis in their home, and my mother-in-law's fall in her own home which landed her in the hospital with a broken pelvis.

Now, three weeks later, my aunt by marriage has passed away in her nursing home, my aunt and uncle underwent a health crisis intervention and were each placed in separate care facilities, and my mother-in-law was placed in a nursing home, as well. Four family members, all in different cities, different nursing homes, all needing love, caring, and family support at once.

It has been a very challenging three weeks for all of us, but ones which have taught me so much about the true value of caring for our elderly. I learned to phone and send photos to the ones far away, when I could not visit. I learned to visit the one nearby, even for short visits. And I learned the importance of almost daily visits to another neighboring town, for my mother-in-law .......who is defying the odds, at age 91, of recuperating from a deteriorating arthritic hip combined with a broken pelvis.

The aunt by marriage..... passed away on Sunday....the day I was going to see her for the last time. Knowing she was in the final stages, I missed my chance to go on Saturday. I knew the end was near, but I decided not to interrupt her own children's' visiting. It turned out, that no one at all visited her that day, which breaks my heart. I prayed for her and sent healing energies from my heart to aid in her passing. But I missed my own chance to perhaps, just hold her hand as she lay passing and let her know she was not alone. I know that the majority of us pass in the night, and most of us choose to pass alone. But still it is sad.

The aunt and the uncle......I have maintained almost daily contact of one kind or another with, still regretting that I hadn't noticed their deterioration sooner and perhaps, acted more quickly on care options having done so. But I have done what I could, based on geographical and time limitations. My only regrets for them is that after a lifetime of closeness together, they are now, because of negatively interacting dementia, needing separate placements.

But the mother-in-law.... I have no regrets. I have given her my all and it brought a relationship to a wonderful healing place that I have always wanted with her. She went from being totally 100% bedridden, to being able to move a bit, to being able to get out of her bed, to sitting up in a chair, and now to being able to walk with a walker. She has totally amazed us all. And I know in my heart that it was only because of all of our support, that she was able to choose to live longer.... instead of giving up and giving in.

I look at these four relationships, with their varying degrees of closeness...whether geographically or emotionally, and I know each had to be as it was, for each of us. Life is always about balancing the hard with the soft, the good with the bad, the easy with the challenging. I have just had a variety of those at once and learned from them all.

7 comments:

  1. I'm still praying for you and your family.

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  2. Thank you again. Very thought provoking post. I will try not to have any regrets with the relationships around me. Right now we are at a bad place with my mother in law. Anger on both sides (actually, I'm not angry,it's my husband...) but I hate to think how we'll all feel if something happens to her before there is healing... Soft and hard do go together...

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  3. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately we cannot live by that alone. We do the best we can and make decisions based on that moments reality. Don't beat yourself up - if you had intentionally set out to make decisions to regret later it would be a different story - but you didn't do that. You're a hero in my book -- WTG.

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  4. Jane Ann8:34 PM

    Those folks are blessed to have you. It's a heavy responsibility you bear, but I know your spirit is richer for the caring. I see a lot of people too shallow and bankrupt of compassion to lend a hand. You are blessed to care so much, and then to do the hard part: to follow through.

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  5. You know our generation, as you say in the sandwich, probably has the most challenging circumstances because of the often difficult geography - there's no easy answer but at least modern technology also aids long distance communication

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  6. You are an example for all of us. Thanks again for your tender, heartfelt tributes and sage wisdom that has been gained by the experiences of these current circumstances. I am praying for strength for your soul and calming peace for your spirit. I feel as though I am forever learning at the feet of the master, for that I am deeply grateful.

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  7. God bless you, you and your loved ones are in my prayers.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.