My wife Bernie and I
were speaking about the time
she was undergoing chemotherapy.
It’s interesting what she remembered
about my caregiving.
It was mostly the little things.
My bringing a table into the bedroom
so she could look upon all her bouquets.
My borrowing a laptop so she could journal in bed.
My washing her during those first baths
that were so hard for both of us.
Then she said, “I imagine you did a lot I never saw
because I was so consumed with the cancer,
with my treatments.
I probably wasn’t as grateful as I could have been.”

It’s gratifying and affirming when our work as caregivers
is acknowledged and appreciated.
In the best of all possible worlds, that happens regularly.
But times of illness and incapacitation are not
the best of all possible worlds.
Those who receive our care may be depleted or weak,
discouraged or depressed,
anxious or frightened,
embittered or angry.
Their pain, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual,
may narrow the scope of their world
as well as their ability to respond to us and others.
Reality is that those in our care have their own work to do,
and we caregivers have the work that is ours to do,
and we are all called upon to do what is distinctively our own
with whatever determination, strength, and insight
we can muster.
Sometimes gratitude comes back to us;
sometimes it does not.
But that’s not what matters in the end.
What really matters is that healing care is humanly offered
and care that is healing is humanly received.

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