Seems like every few months we run out of good days and I get overwhelmed – the tight ‘I can’t do this anymore’ feelings. Then something happens that loosens me up. It happened again this week.
Last week we had a number of wheelchair problems. He drove holes in the wall with his footplate. He drove off a path at a sculpture garden, taking out several bouganvillea and miring his wheels in soft dirt. He thought he could walk to the bathroom with the walker when the wheelchair was having technical difficulties and couldn’t so sunk to the floor. “I can’t do this anymore,” I told him. “We have to look for a facility for you to live in.”
And then several nights ago he had a breathing attack in the middle of the night. I finally woke up and curled up next to him with my head on his shoulder and my hand on his chest. He relaxed and somehow so did I.
This caring for someone is sacred work. I don’t even know what that means but it’s somehow very important. Yeah, there’s all the medical stuff we have to do, all the advocacy (even with, maybe especially with, hospice.)
But the really important work is how do we have a good day. How can I, as a caregiver, make this a good day? How can we continue to enjoy life?
Dying slowly is hard work. But what’s better? Dying fast?
We had a stark comparison as my ex-husband, my kids father, died recently from injuries sustained when his cycling group was hit by an elderly driver. He never woke up. Brutally hard for all who loved him, including me. But what about for him? He loved cycling. He had retired early and found a new outlet for his younger athletic passion, and a new group of buddies to share it with. He died, it appeared, having a good day.
Larry can’t act as fully on what were his passions. But we try to get as close as possible. Being outside. Cooking – the new hospice volunteer loves to cook and they made an amazing roasted red pepper goat cheese lasagna this week. Sports – he still plays in his fantasy football league.
We don’t know how much time he has. Just like my ex-husband, and just like all of us, we don’t know which will be the day he dies. I want him to die having had a good day.
That means my caregiving work is primarily about good days. That makes me smile to write it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s never easy. But it does change my perspective. We can both have good days.