Monday, October 12, 2009

Family caregivers, faith and waiting

Three years ago, on a dark, late fall night, I sat in the parking lot of the ballet school waiting for my 14 year old daughter to emerge.

My phone rang, and I heard news that would change my family’s life.

“Your parents have been in an accident,” the voice said. “You need to drive to the trauma center to meet the ambulance with your mother.”

“Where’s my father?” I asked.

“He’s been taken to another hospital. You can call there and get more information.”

With that, our lives changed. I was thrown into the whirlwind of planning my father’s funeral, while trying to visit my mother as often as possible in critical care. We hosted visiting relatives, and tried to sort out tasks with siblings, all the while keeping everyone on speaking terms.

Every time I tell this story I hear similar stories from families who experienced the phone call that changed their lives.

Families whose loved one had a car accident, a heart attack, a stroke, or diagnosis of a terminal disease.

Families who got the news they never wanted to hear about the death of a young son or daughter serving overseas.

One thing I remember about those early days was the difficulty of waiting.

We waited, that night, in a “family counseling room,” my husband, daughter and I, for nearly 4 hours while the doctors tried to stabilize my mother enough for us to see her.

Then we waited, often hours at a time, for her to go through the numerous surgeries that would fix one bone after another in the weeks that followed.

We waited for a doctor to explain to us what to expect next, or a social worker to find out what resources might be available to help her.

Those moments of not knowing, of waiting for tests results or news of survival from another surgery, are some of the hardest moments of all. When we have the facts we can make a plan and start taking action.

How do we cope with the minutes, hours and sometimes days of not knowing?

This is, perhaps, time when our faith must take over. It is the time that we look deep inside and know that, whatever happens, we will face it somehow. We will find the strength to make a plan, to take a step, to continue going. Our family, our friends, our church and our beliefs will help us handle whatever is going to happen.

It’s easy to look back and think how very precious and fragile the gift of life is, but perhaps the most precious and fragile thing is the inner strength we must uncover so that when the phone rings, late on a dark, fall night, we can face the voice – and the challenge – on the other end.

No comments: