When the Caregiving is Over

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Linda Hickman, California

My parents died in February 2016 after years of ill health and disability. My experience as their caregiver is no different than many others. Sharing that experience isn’t the purpose of this message. I want to share what I observed and learned when I cleared the house of all the “treasures” put away “for good” and never used. Here goes. Thanks for your patience.

I walk through this empty house
And poke around it like a mouse
Afraid it may have missed a crumb
While packing up and storing some
things that no one ever used.

An unwound watch still in the case,
A box that stored a flower-free vase,
Unslept-on old time linen sheets,
Unworn shoes for dance-free feet,
And none with a memory attached.

I’m sure there is a moral here
Of what’s important and truly dear
In life. Unused plates are unknown friends
Who did not dine or come again.
An opportunity lost and abused.

Why paint the walls and hang the art
That’s so important to your heart
If the walls just keep you locked inside
Surrounded by all you can’t abide
To share? And the door is latched.

I’ll paint these walls in bright sunshine,
Unlock the door, and pour the wine.
The crockery’s there for us to use
And from each plate there’s lots to choose.
And loneliness is not excused.

I can only pray my parents were content with how they lived. They had little company and wanted none that I could tell. They never shared their lives with others outside the immediate family and at the last they couldn’t if they wanted to do so. The burden of clearing out all this “stuff” has nearly smothered me and I have donated much of it to charities that furnish apartments for refugee resettlement or have resale stores to raise money for such projects.

My first act when I got back to my own apartment was to break out all the good china and have a party. I've used it every Sunday since. Even if you don’t have much in the line of material goods, sharing it with friends increases the value. My own plan is to declutter, use up, and share with as many people as I can, while I can. I don't want to die with no one who remembers me. God bless all you caregivers out there and good luck to you and your families.

 

Progression of Care: