When we are born we come with nothing and we go with nothing. In between we try to make a contribution to our family, community and the world around us.
The transition to becoming a caregiver is difficult, the biggest challenge is going from having lots of time for yourself and an ability to make plans, to having no time. Much like a mother I guess. I was given a ringside seat into old age and death. Watching the decline, you are forced to confront the mortality of your loved one as well as your own.
High dependency needs mean that no matter how much you love the one you are caring for you get very tired. The forced isolation can be lonely for a lot of people. My experience wasn’t so much the loneliness but more the loss of “me” time. Early in the caregiving role when I was able to go out for a couple of hours I would joke with my friends that my visa was up and I had to get home before my visa was cancelled.
It was three weeks before Christmas and she asked me to visit her in Wellington, preferably before Christmas. I was leaving for India the following week and no cheap flights meant it was not possible. I phoned her and told her I would visit when I returned from India.
Whilst in India, my Teacher got an email saying she had been admitted into hospice. I was unsure that I would get back in time. However, my Teacher was confident that it would be okay. At least I was in one of the holiest places and attending a prayer festival. I sponsored some group prayers for her as well as doing my personal prayers for her.
I met the Tibetan family that my friend sponsored. They were very grateful for her kindness and generosity and very sad that my friend was terminally ill. They requested me to take a beautiful woollen shawl back to New Zealand for her.
Within a few days of arriving home, I flew to Wellington to see her. She was out of hospice and back in her own home, being well cared for by one of her sons and her sister. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a much thinner version of my friend who was still quite mobile due to the loving care of her son and sister. I stayed two days with her.
He was 14 new to the area, no siblings and only his mother and him. They had been living up north; he didn’t know why they moved and it didn’t matter. Everything was okay until his mum got sick. She went to the Doctor and came back with lots of medicine. When he asked what the Doctor said she brushed him off with “nothing for you to worry about son”.
A month went by and his mother was getting worse. They both went back to the Doctor, he said she needed to do some tests and he gave her a piece of paper and told her she had to go to the hospital for some x-rays and some other things that he didn’t know what they meant. The doctor would contact her when he had the results. The Doctor phoned a few days later, he needed to see her. He told her she had cancer.
He went to school at his mother’s urging. His mother was alone, he worried she might need something and he wouldn’t be there to get it. She reassured him she would be fine and would text him if she needed him.