Patience. We learn it the hard way in caregiving. In this break-neck-speed society, caregivers are like student drivers, always trying to put our foot on the gas, but with 'fate', the driving instructor, firmly putting his foot on the metaphorical brake.
Caring for young children, an elderly parent, a loved one with disabilities, or someone dear with illness - all these situations call for slowing down, putting our worldly concerns on hold and being patient. We are patient when our loved ones eat slowly at mealtimes, we are patient waiting for their test results or for insurance settlements. The urge to scream at the different paces of competing needs is real in every caregiver's life.
But patience always wins, because it must. Aging, infirmity, living with illness or disability - all of these ways of getting through the day whether you are giving or receiving care - all of these take time. More time than we are used to devoting to tasks such as getting dressed or having a bath.
And palliative caregivers know only too well that it requires time and patience to die. And yet when that frustrating slowness suddenly halts and the life of a dearly loved one ends.... this is how one caregiver expressed her feelings in an online support forum:
I lost my Dad on Sunday night. He was so sick for so long but in the end he died within 5 minutes. After almost six years of taking care of him and seeing him every day I can't believe I am finally out of a job. Never thought I would miss the burden of caregiving but I feel lost without him as my daily anchor. For those who are still in the midst of it, I hope you can find some small joy before it's over. The other side of it seems even tougher. 💕
Learning to be patient is connected to learning to love in the form of compassionate action that we call caregiving. It is both a blessing and a curse - like most things in life. And the stops, the starts, the quickness and slowness are all hard to absorb. Caregiving is never just one speed - the constant is the requirement for patience, even patience to endure grief.