Unanticipated

A poignant act of caregiving
occurred a few days ago.
Neil and Abby,
friends of our daughter Christen’s family,
took on monumental responsibilities
when their daughter Scout
developed a malignant tumor in her jaw.
Later the cancer spread to other parts of her body.
For many months one or both were by Scout’s side,
often far from home,
through all her sickness and all her treatments.
While the prognosis was originally guardedly hopeful,
the time came when it was clear
that additional medical intervention would not benefit her.
A week ago Saturday Scout died—she was 8.
When it was time, Neil and Abby dressed her body
in preparation for its being taken to the funeral home;
cremation had already been arranged.
The hearse arrived and Scout’s body was placed inside.
The two of them had agreed that Abby would remain
at the house with their younger daughter,
and Neil would accompany Scout’s body.
As the funeral director was about to help Neil into the front seat,
Neil said, “If it’s alright, I want to ride in the back
with my daughter.”
So he climbed in the back of the hearse,
and that’s where he lay, arm over her body,
as they made their way through town
toward their destination.
He needed to be her caregiver, to care for her body,
for as long as he could, as far as he could.
He needed to do this for himself,
for his caregiving wife,
for his caregiving younger daughter,
for his caregiving larger family.

Sometimes caregiving extends even beyond physical death.
Caregiving may include souls as well as bodies,
the spirit as well as the flesh.
I imagine thoughtful caregiving can extend to
the memories of loved ones,
the legacies of loved ones,
the dreams of loved ones.
I believe caregiving may take on forms we cannot predict,
or would not anticipate,
and yet when the moment arrives,
we will know what is ours to do.

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