Mary and my wife Bernie
are very good friends.
They see one another
Mary is very engaged
as a caregiver.
Her husband is in poor health,
with three separate medical conditions,
each very serious.
I spoke with Mary by herself recently
and asked about her caregiving—
what was hard and what wasn’t,
what helped and what didn’t.
She was clear about what helps a lot:
“I don’t like to burden family members
with all that continues to happen
and all that I feel in response.
It helps so much to turn to Bernie
to get things off my chest
when I need to.”
“Bernie finds your time together meaningful,”
I said, knowing that to be true.
“But,” Mary went on, “I don’t think she realizes
how much good it does when she listens
and lets me talk all I want.
It always helps me.
It also helps my children
because then they don’t have to hear
the same things over and over,
things that no one can change.
And it helps my husband
because after ventilating my feelings to Bernie,
I return to my role with more energy
and more acceptance.
When Bernie helps me,
she is helping many others too,
even if she doesn’t always know it.”

That’s a magic of thoughtful caregiving:
one act of care often splits off
in several different directions,
whether that’s intended or unintended,
touching the lives of unseen others.
It becomes less a direct line of care
and more an expanding web of care,
branching out every chance it gets.
Rather lovely, isn’t it?

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