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The Caregiver's Cairn: December Reflections

Jane Barton

Greetings one and all…

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone. WOW! The year has just flown by—or at least that is my perception. Consequently, I am choosing to S L O W down a bit today. I need (and want) some time to reflect on the happenings of the past year and to intentionally reflect on the lessons learned.

As I shared in previous postings, this year presented some unexpected twists and turns that proved to be personally and professionally challenging. An unexpected and frightening medical event turned my life inside out this summer. However, my story is not unique. It’s not extraordinary. In fact, my story is similar to the stories of most caregivers I met throughout the year. All of us had moments over the past year in which we felt totally out of control—perhaps frustrated and frightened by a dramatic turn of events. And yet, in the aftermath of those daunting times, there were lessons to be learned that ultimately enriched our lived experience. Today, I want to share what I learned this year from personal experience as well as from listening to the stories of others challenged by life.

The Basics of Life (aka Life 101):

  1. Life can change in an instant—shattering the illusion of control. The reality is that we can’t control everything that happens in life. But we are free to choose a response to life. And our response to the unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) events of life determine whether we merely endure or ultimately embrace life.
  2. Worrying about the “what ifs” of life is counterproductive. Focusing on what might happen distracts us from the present and consumes our physical and emotional energy. We are better served to be present to the moment. Confront the reality of the situation. Then, take one step at a time as the path unfolds.
  3. Living with an enhanced sense of gratitude enriches the lived experience. When grateful for the moment, we are much more appreciative of the simple yet sacred things in life. We become intentionally attentive to the moment—willing to be open and vulnerable to life.
  4. The unexpected, unwanted detours in life often prompt a review of our priorities. When life happens, it’s often the wake-up call that reminds us of the truly important things in life—family, friends, faith, good health, and meaning-FULL work.
  5. Boundaries are blessings that serve us well. By acknowledging that we have limitations, we realize that we can’t be all things to all people all of the time. We recognize the benefits of saying “No” when pushed beyond our limits or when others attempt to violate our boundaries. We realize that self care is rooted in healthy personal boundaries.
  6. Never cease to be amazed by life. Retain a sense of awe and wonder regarding every aspect of life. Take nothing for granted. Savor every moment. Squeeze the LIFE out of life!

These are the life lessons I am holding close and pondering today. What about you? What did LIFE teach you this year? And how will those lessons serve you and yours in the days and weeks to come? Perhaps you’ll reflect on these questions during the month of December. By so doing, you can create your own list of the Basics of Life. A good thing indeed.

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 Happy Holidays to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at 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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