I read an interview
with Lonnie Ali,
wife of Muhammed Ali.
He has Parkinson’s disease.
She referred to herself
not as his caregiver
but as his care partner.
I believe the language we use—
as a culture, as families, as individuals—
indicates the values we hold
and the principles that guide our lives.
So I lingered on her deliberate description
of who she is in her role.
As I have written elsewhere,
if we see ourselves principally as caregivers,
then someone else must necessarily be
on the other end of all that giving.
That’s how the term care receiver
came into being.
While it’s possible to maintain true equality
between self-named givers
and commonly-referred-to receivers,
I believe it is difficult to do so.
Those who are always on the receiving end of things
usually come to feel that they’re
not as strong, not as important,
not as valid.
So I like this idea of care partnering.
I like what it signifies:
we share in something;
we participate together;
we’re equals.
Indeed, that is our clear reality.
We were equally given birth
and we are equally moving to our deaths.
We are equally individual,
equally deserving of attention,
equally due common respect.
Any feelings we have are equal.
So are any yearnings, any dreams, any hopes.
We’re equally prone to mistakes,
equally capable of regrets,
equally called to forgiveness,
equally qualified to be forgiven.
Our pasts are equally a part of us.
Our futures on earth are equally unknowable.
We are absolutely equally human.
We are made up of equal sparks of the divine.
So Lonnie is right—
at the ground of our common experience
we are nothing less than even partners
from beginning to end.

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