Helplessness

Political commentator Morton Kondracke
has written a moving book
called Saving Milly.
Milly is his wife of many years.
In 1988, at the age of 47,
she developed Parkinson’s disease.
Over time she had to give up her psychotherapy practice,
then her ability to walk,
and later her ability to speak.
Morton juggled his work schedule so he could physically care for her
a number of hours each day.
He wrote in the introduction to his memoir,
“Parkinson’s disease has kidnapped my wife.
She is being carried into an abyss,
and I am helpless to rescue her.”

The caregiving situations to which some of us are called
may bear some similarity to that of Morton and Milly.
A terrible disease kidnaps and ravages the body or mind
of someone we love,
someone who doesn’t deserve this.
Or an awful accident destroys any hope of a normal life
from that point forward.
The one in our care is helpless to reverse what has happened,
what continues to happen.
And while our situation as their caregiver is much different,
we also experience helplessness firsthand.
We cannot undo what has been done.
We cannot take away the other’s pain.
We cannot make everything right.
Indeed, a certain helplessness is a part of all caregiving,
including those situations that are
noticeably less overwhelming, less tragic.
As caregivers, much lies beyond our control.
Once we realize that,
then we are free to move toward finding ways to accept this reality,
to begin making our peace with it.
Ours is to acknowledge what we cannot do in this situation,
while staying clear about what we can do—
for the other, for ourselves, and even for the world at large.

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