Cultivating Compassion: An Instrument of Love
I truly believe that taking on the role of at-home caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia becomes for us, an instrument of love. We shower our loved one with care, attention, time, effort, compassion and hope, every moment of every day, for years. Let me repeat that…every moment, of every day, for years. We do so, even when the challenges exceed our capacity; because our love prevails. We become an instrument of love. We live and breathe the blessed gifts of love and compassion spoken about in sacred holy texts. We become servants to something higher and far grander than we can imagine, yet in the midst of our roles, we often don’t see this blessing until months, or years after our loved on has passed on. We lose sight of our sacredness, and the sacred gift of the service we offer. We lose sight because the daily physical and mental trials pull us away from the sacred and into the physical reality of exhaustion, depression, anger, blame and resentment.
Early on in the care-giving for my parents with Dementia, I recognized the sacredness of our triad. I was aware of the gifts I was lovingly sharing, and I recognized the crucial role I played in their transition toward the heavenly realms. In those early months, I intuitively knew that I was shepherding them through unknown territory, and that my role was to be an instrument of love. I was performing a sacred service, through the highest of love and compassion. Understanding this sacredness, left me fulfilled, knowing I was playing a role that required I serve with love from the depths of my being. I feel confident that I fulfilled this service for some time. However, as time passed and events occurred that altered their physical abilities and cognitive understanding, my role became arduous, and the ability to maintain this sacred role as an instrument of love and compassion, was overtaken by my physical exhaustion and unfulfilled health needs. It became a battle of heaven vs earth, light vs dark. As their diseases progressed, the complexity of our dynamic did too. It became harder to feel the sacredness, and easier to find the flaws and problems.
I soon lost all sight of myself, the sacredness of our triad, and the power of service through love and compassion. I was too tired to feel and be sacred, and I became entrenched in resentment, anger, and even blame. My resentment landed on all the losses I felt. I had given up my career, social life, financial stability, and health to shepherd my parents through this time; and in return for giving my love and care, I lost my life and myself. I began to place blame in so many places for the loss of my life. I blamed my family members for not offering more support, time, understanding, or respite. I blamed friends for not calling, stopping by, or understanding why I could never get away. I blamed my parents for denying the reality of this disease years ago, and for creating their financial instability that led to their need to be in my home. I blamed myself for not being the absolute ALL that I thought I should be; for losing myself, for feeling angry, or guilty, or bitchy. I blamed myself for being profoundly alone and isolated in this journey with my parents. I blamed myself for all of my losses (health, friends, love, finances, career), because I had knowingly chosen to move into the sacred, and I had no idea what it would take from me (or later give to me).
The more angry and resentful I became, the more I created this whirlwind of pain and suffering within me. I could not see it then, and I am only just now understanding it. As my mother failed and transitioned to hospice care, I swirled in the darkness of my own suffering. I had no idea the degree to which I was contributing to my own anguish. All I could focus on was her fear and existential suffering, and I held that suffering within me. I owned it, and I grieved more deeply than I ever had. In my grief, I became profoundly exhausted. I was caring for her nearly 20 hours a day. Not only had I lost sight of the sacredness of our journey, I lost sight of my physical being. I existed somewhere in the realm of the ethers, not knowing where the reserve would come from to continue each day. I eventually hired private care hours for 8 hours per day, then I worried endlessly over whether their meager finances would last the duration of her disease.
Within this etheric existence, I could no longer find the energy for anger or blame, and the state of sacredness was long gone. I operated on a routine of bathing, turning, medications, feeding. I buried all emotions and became numb to my own pain. My mother’s suffering was finally eased through medication, and when her fears abated, she settled in to a peaceful state. It was then, three days before she passed, that the sacredness of our journey began to return. As I lie next to her in her those last few days, empty, raw, and exhausted; I experienced moments of insight and understanding. She had taken on two powerful diseases- Alzheimer’s disease and Cancer, to show me how fear can paralyze life and soul; and how feelings of unworthiness can destroy the heart. She chose to spend her final days of life with me, to share through her intense suffering and anguish, the lessons of divinity that lie within the heart and soul. When we learn to lean in and conquer our fears and feelings of unworthiness, we will recognize all the blessings of love that life brings; and only then, will we master life on earth.