Friends on the Trail

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Steam Team friends 2016 near Rapidan River

I’ve noticed that loss and loneliness often go hand in hand.

To stay the course of cleaning out our home of 20 years before putting the house on the market, I’ve said no to several fun get togethers and adventures this summer.  Spending hours alone in a dusty basement is a recipe for lonely.  Ugh.

I remember 10 years ago feeling lonely as I grieved the deaths of my mom and sister-in-law.  No matter what interactions I shared with people the fog of loss did not lift for many months.  The grieving dominated while I went through the motions of life as best I could.

This loss is different.  I am thankful to not have the intense brain fog, but my mind is noticeably strained with long to do lists and some sadness nonetheless.

While sorting items from our home, I relive memories of friends and family over the years.  Cards, pictures, movie tickets, toys, and journals have resurfaced.

I laugh out loud, snap a picture to capture certain memories before tossing items, and give thanks for the experiences.  I don’t need the fading construction paper from my children’s preschool masterpieces, but I do want a remaining image of their artwork in case I choose to revisit digital pictures that do not require space or dusting in our next home.

I feel lucky for friends in my life whether they are here for a season, reason, or ongoing.  I’ve had time to think about friends and how much they’ve meant to me along life’s trail.  I am reminded to text or email girlfriends I haven’t spoken with in a while.  And close friends who know what’s going on have helped or offered to help in this process.

It’s like I’m in adult time out.

I have long talks with God on my worn path to Goodwill.

Memories made with friends along the trail of life improve my energy.  Oh, and ibuprofen could almost be called a friend at this point too!  Ouch, my muscles hurt.

Sometimes I think when this is over I will spend a week in bed, but I really won’t do that when the time arrives.  I will call a friend and choose an adventure.

friendship proverbs 27 9

Caregiver vs. Caregiver

Perhaps I should not write this while I still remember her license plate number.  This is fresh, y’all.

Let’s begin with one of my favorite quotes:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.  ~  Martin Luther King Jr.

It was a perfect breezy 80-degree morning, the kind of morning where it looks like the sun is gently kissing each surface around you.  Hubby left for work with minimal physical challenges.  I jump in the car early to go pick up snacks and water for a 24-person summer school field trip.  I feel joyful and have plenty of time to shop in our local grocery store.

I paid without feeling rushed.  I turn left out of the store to walk toward the ice chest.  I need two bags of ice.  Ahead of me is an elderly man shuffling his feet like Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show.  I guess he is in his late 80’s or early 90’s.

My mind goes two places.  One, I want to make sure I leave him plenty of room.  I walk behind my cart slowly.  Two, I find myself praying for him.  I thank God that this man has lived a long life and ask that he have a wonderful day.  Given his difficulty to walk, it is great that he is outside enjoying the weather.

I stop to place my hand on the ice chest door handle.  The man is well ahead of me at this point.  Suddenly my eye catches sight of erratic body movements further ahead of the man.  Jumping out of a white SUV parked curbside down by the liquor store is a woman near my age.  Her arms flail.  Her voice is loud.

“You’re about to be run over, Grandpa!” She bellows.  I notice her slim figure looks good in white pants.  Odd the things you pay attention to sometimes.

Aw, I think maybe she is trying to banter with him.  To connect.  To have fun.

Censored beep, beep, beep later I realize she is not being playful at all.  She is livid.  At me.

She yells my direction, “Some people are so rude!”

What?!

I attempt to tuck in my inner Martha.  Martha, my mom, had a short fuse made of magnesium.  I can let this go.

And then my mouth opens anyway.

“Maybe from your perspective,” I send her way.  “But from where I am I was giving him plenty of space and even saying prayers of thanksgiving for him.”  I know that probably sounded stupid, but it was true.

After all, the woman is beyond us and there is even a brick column obstructing her view.  From where her SUV is parked it would be easy to jump to conclusions.  There’s no way she can accurately assess the distance between Grandpa and me from her location.

And then her mouth opens.  She combines words like prayer and the b word and other words I’m not going to type.

Sigh…this day had been going so well.

Is she coming after me?  My faux Terminator eye surveys our surroundings.  In seconds I assess where the security cameras hopefully are, what time it is, how my body will flatten hers if she hits me first, and contemplate if I can withstand assault charges.  I am not proud of this.  I’m just saying I was raised in a way that is ready for unanticipated action.  Generally, I am a pleasant person.  I try to maintain a kind face even in these strained moments.

I finish putting ice in my cart.  Grandpa shuffles into the liquor store and the angry lady gets back into her SUV.  I step into the parking lot so I can make a mental note of her license plate, then turn right to find my car.

I maintain awareness as I load my trunk.  I know my insides are shaking a little bit.

Sitting in the car I text a trusted BFF to ask for prayer.  A day once going well now feels scary.

When back on the road, I see the SUV.  The lady still looks erratic.  She runs her hands through her hair many times and might be yelling at Grandpa.

I drive, pray, go over the checklist for the day.  Crisis adverted.

Then a deep truth hit my heart.  That lady is a caregiver for Grandpa.  I don’t know if she is every day, but this day she is.  As my mind softens, I dismiss some judgement about how if she really cared about Grandpa she wouldn’t send him alone into either store and especially not the one with hundreds of glass bottles.  It occurs to me that maybe as a caregiver she is angry.

And sometimes I feel angry as a caregiver too.

I just felt anger toward a fellow caregiver.  With good reason, I saw her as an enemy first.  But what does the Bible say about our response to enemies?

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

Do I love her?

How long did it take me to pray for my enemy?  Answer:  38 minutes

It was easy to recognize Grandpa’s struggles, but it was hard to recognize the possibility of her struggle.  It took me 38 minutes to pray for her.  Maybe she needed to let off steam and I was an easy target.  To follow are a few additional thoughts about invisible caregiver pain:

1.  People don’t read minds.  The SUV lady couldn’t read my mind and I couldn’t read hers.  Lord, May we try to give people grace first instead of judgement.

2.  Perspective is varied.  Depending on where you are standing or what you are doing at the moment before you look up makes a big difference in what you see.  I suspect if the woman had been parked behind us or beside us she may not have jumped to the conclusion that Grandpa was in danger.

3.  How often do we miss the caregivers?  We sign up for meal trains, we bring things to patients who are sick, but what can we do for caregivers?  There are other blogs and articles with ideas on this.  I encourage you to keep caregivers in mind when you support people who are hurting.  Lord, Please help caregivers to be comforted, seen, and heard.  Also, help me to be sensitive to the journey of others.  Amen.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.  1 Chronicles 28:20