A Caregiver’s Biggest Lesson
I have pink eye.
And I’m extremely happy I got it. I’ll get to why in a moment, but first some background.
For the third time since March, the whites of my eyes are red and watery with occasional discharges that result in some crusting on my eyelashes. (I think the person who nicknamed the disease pink eye was a photographer, because my eyes look more red than pink, and what good photographer likes red eyes?)
I announce this not to complain, because I would rather deal with conjunctivitis, pink eye’s official name, than something more serious, especially considering the other germs floating in the air these days that I could be battling.
I also share about the state of my eyes because it brings up every caregiver’s nightmare scenario: What if something happens to me that seriously affects my life or health? What if I die in the next several years? How can I help to take care of my wife or daughter, who both have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease?
I realize this is a dramatic point to consider, but in the course of my life, I have dealt with the deaths of my two older sisters — one from cancer at the age of 45 and the other in a tragic accident at the age of 59. So I know that life is fragile. Everyone realizes this at some point in their lives, but I really realize it. It’s not something I dwell on, but it’s in the back of my mind the older I get.
So when I used to think of the future, I would say to myself, “I must be healthy. I can’t get sick or get into an accident. I must be able to take care of my family.” Those thoughts are noble, but ridiculous in the sense that beyond trying to eat well, exercise, and avoid doing crazy things, I can’t really control how and when I will die.
I accept that, of course. I realize I am not in control. I am thankful for my faith, because I know God is in control. However, it still doesn’t stop me from wanting to take care of my wife and daughter as much as I can when their Huntington’s starts to worsen, which is why I pray for good health in the years ahead.
And this brings me to the reason I’m thankful for pink eye: It’s a reminder that what’s important is not if I die youngish like my sisters, but rather to appreciate my good health. (Other than pink eye, I’m in good health, knock on wood.)
I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned as a caregiver: Be happy and thankful for what you can control, and go for it. And may what you can’t control be like leaves in the fall: You just have to let go.
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