Hero

Shannon has pancreatitis.
It was caused
by a genetic defect.
It started 6 years ago
when she was 27.
Always healthy and adventuresome
when she was younger,
her life has now taken an unwanted turn.
First there is the abdominal pain.
It strikes without warning, a couple of times a month,
lasting hours on end.
When it first happened,
she thought she was dying.
Now she knows she won’t die,
but sometimes she says she wishes she could—
the pain is that excruciating.
All she can do is increase her pain medication,
curl up in a ball, and wait it out.
Extreme nausea has become her way of life—
most every morning, most every evening.
Sometimes the nausea strikes unpredictably, embarrassingly,
wherever she is, whatever she’s doing.
Daily she must conserve her energy carefully.
Indeed, she will always have to—
she has been told her condition cannot improve.

Shannon has become a friend of mine.
I watch her carry on day after day
with true grit, with remarkable resilience,
with persistent courage.
Her efforts, every single day,
are nothing less than heroic.

In this space that’s dedicated to the issues
of being a caregiver to family or friends,
Shannon is an important reminder to us.
It’s true that caregiving can be demanding.
It’s true there may be something of the heroic
in how some of us caregivers live out our roles.
But we dare not forget that sometimes, if not often,
the one in our care is engaged in a battle
that is even more heroic.
They may grapple with unceasing pain,
or unnerving fear, or unrelenting depression.
They may be forced to deal with symptoms
that are fatiguing, or alarming, or humiliating.
They may be adjusting to diseases or conditions
that limit not only the quality of their lives
but even the length their lives.
Such individuals are examples of heroism personified.
We dare not forget that.

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2 Responses to “Hero”

  1. Jim Charles Says:

    I have never thought of myself as a hero. It is family that I have been a caregiver for over 5 years now. Still, the challenges seem to grow daily, particularly now that my mother’s dementia is progressing, and the test of my patience grows proportionately. Still it is family! I can share the responsibility, but I can’t give it away. My brother has Down’s Syndrome and often doesn’t understand why I can’t let him do some things that a reasonable person would know. My sister just had major back surgery and I can’t expect her to do the things she used to do around the house. They’re family and their needs give me purpose. Besides, they take care of me too!

  2. Pam Brown Says:

    Do you offer this image and expression about care givers in a greeting card or note card?

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