AARP AARP States Colorado Caregiving

A Lesson in Courage and Grace

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Jane Barton

Greetings one and all…

It’s hard to believe that March has arrived. Spring is in the air—a glorious time of year! I hope you find the season inspiring and life giving. Spring offers countless opportunities to grow, to evolve, and to embrace a new way of being. I noticed the tantalizing signs of spring on my walk yesterday in my neighborhood. The sun is higher in the sky. The light is brighter. And the initial signs of buds on the trees and bushes are evident.

I have also witnessed the amazing transformation of a dear friend—a spring-like process as well. Confronted with significant medical challenges that negate the possibility of living independently, my friend has chosen to accept her new reality with grace. Although saddened by what is lost—her home and autonomy—she views the pending transition to a long-term care community as an adventure. With an open mind, open heart, and positive attitude, she will no doubt make the most of this new beginning. This is not her first rodeo! She has confronted daunting challenges in the past and always emerged with a smile on her face. I marvel at her courage, her tenacity, and her wisdom. I am so incredibly blessed to know and to love this lady.

I met this woman 16 years ago—introduced by a mutual friend. Since that initial meeting, we have been the three amigos. We have companioned each other through the good times and the bad. We laugh (a lot!). We cry. We care. We show up. We share a history that binds us together and reinforces our commitment to each other. Such is the nature of “family.” Through the highs and lows, I have learned so much from our dear friend—lessons that will serve me well as I grow older. Lessons that will allow me to age with grace (I hope!).

Several years ago when visiting our friend at the hospital, I marveled at her optimism despite a rather dire medical situation. I asked her how she maintained such a positive outlook on life. She smiled and laughed. Then, realizing that my question was sincere, she responded in the following way. “Janie, this is my life. This is my reality. I understand the situation, the prognosis, and the challenges before me. But what good does it do to despair? It’s up to me to make the best of the situation. So, I am!” And so she did and so she does!

As the journey unfolds for our dear friend, we will be there to support, to encourage, and to love her. By so doing, we will witness a fiercely independent woman relinquishing control of many facets of her life—an unwanted, but necessary, transfer of power. Being fiercely independent as well, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for her! But what I have learned over the years is that inviting the assistance of others—being vulnerable—requires tremendous courage. Courage that our friend displays every day in countless ways. I know this transition is difficult for her. It’s difficult for all of us. But she as taught us well over the years. This is her reality. This is the hand she has been dealt. So, we will make the best of the situation. And, we’ll be grateful for the opportunity to share another adventure with our dear friend. Onward  and upward!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, enjoy the moment and blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

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