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Those Left Behind

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I speak a lot about the trials and tribulations of being the caregiver/wellness partner to someone you love.  I focus a lot on how to keep yourself sane during these period in your life and how to come out the other side with your sanity and a sense of self.  I’ve tried to offer solace for those of you giving of yourself without question in hopes of making the life of another easier and more fulfilled.  If nothing else I’ve tried to emphasize the importance of letting the other person know they are loved.

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the death of my father-in-law.  Following open heart surgery twenty years ago he had a massive stroke in the recovery room.  If he hadn’t been in the hospital he wouldn’t have lived, but technology saved his life. He would often question how beneficial it was to have survived the stroke because the life he was living was compromised.  Eventually after ten years of being cared for by his devoted wife the family made the choice to place him in a care facility.  For the past ten years his welfare, well-being and care were of constant concern.

Two weeks ago he was placed in the hospital for skin infections that couldn’t be tamed.  Unbeknownst to us, he had a massive heart attack and over the next five days his body deteriorated and he died on Monday.  So what does this have to do with Caregiver Friday?  I would hope it would be obvious.  His family have been holding him near and dear to their hearts for twenty years.  Every day was spent considering what was in his best interest.  His care took up tremendous space in everyone’s heart and head.

With his death that leaves a lot of space that has opened up in the family’s psyche.  Of course the grief process will consume some of that space.  Whether or not the family had daily meetings about his care, his comfort and health were always a concern.  Just because you don’t talk about something doesn’t mean it doesn’t weigh heavy on your soul.  Caregivers should win Olympic Gold Medals for weight lifting since they hold the world on their shoulders; only Atlas could have accomplished such a task.

The family has shouldered this resp0nsibility for twenty years with dignity and compassion.  They are the survivors and now that space has opened up in their hearts and their heads you have to wonder how will they fill the space?  What will fill in the space previously devoted to caring for the man who was a husband, father, grandfather, brother (youngest of 17 children), athlete, carpenter, musician and man with many opinions.

My hats off to him for raising a great family, instilling great values and creating a family that knows, understands and exhibits the true meaning of family.  Conrad, you’ll be missed!

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