Being Given To

Janet’s breast cancer
was in remission.
Then in 1998 it returned.
Her partner, Stan Black,
cared for her faithfully,
though tentatively.
He had never been a caregiver before.
He wrote about his experiences
in “The Elephant in the Room”
in the book An Uncertain Inheritance.
Stan includes what I believe
is a common, supportive truth
for many caregivers.
I learned to be both tender and strong. And when, as her condition worsened, I weakened, I also found I could recover. I now believe that a loving partner can help you find strengths within you that you didn’t know were there before.
When things got really bad, Janet continued to give me trust that allowed me to help her; she even, I felt, showed me the way.

As caregivers, we may concentrate
so much on our role
that we don’t realize or acknowledge
all our care partners do to help.
That other person may show us trust,
as Janet did Stan,
allowing us to do what we do
more comfortably and naturally.
They may show belief in us,
encouraging our belief in ourselves.
The one in our care may offer
gentle guidance to help our caregiving be
both effective and appropriate.
They may offer their understanding
or confer their forgiveness
when we fall short.
Their cheer may lift it.
Their hope may buoy our own.
In being honestly who they are,
they may help free us to be
honestly who we are.
We dare not demand any of this,
or even expect it, of them.
But when they help us find strengths
we didn’t know we had,
we can at least let them know.
And we can make sure we say “thank you.”

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