Jane Barton

Greetings one and all…

Today, we are on the eve of the Labor Day weekend. Summer is fading quickly as fall takes center stage. On my daily walks, I recently noted the subtle changes in sounds, smells, and sunlight. I love this time of year in Colorado—a time of changing temperatures, vistas, routines, and rhythms of life. As with every seasonal change, I am prompted to reflect on the changing nature of life. Nothing is static. Life is ever-changing. Because life is constantly evolving, we experience countless changes over the course of a lifetime. Some changes are inconsequential. Other changes are transformational—usually the changes that precipitate significant loss. In the aftermath of such change, it is important to realize how remarkable LIFE events change us.

Recently, I enjoyed a lovely lunch and conversation with a friend whom I met when working in hospice. We reconnected several years ago when she attended one of my educational programs in Denver. As always, we talked about family, friends, current events, and LIFE. At one point, she shared a question that grabbed my attention. “How has LIFE changed you?”  She explained that this question had been posed to her several weeks earlier by a hospice patient. The patient asked the question after learning that my friend serves as the caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease 20 years ago. The patient wanted to know how the diagnosis and the subsequent caregiving journey have changed my friend. Her attitudes. Her beliefs. Her understanding of LIFE. Her plans. Her hopes. Her fears. Her approach to LIFE. Her journey. What was lost? What was gained?

My friend’s reaction to the question was similar to mine. She seriously considered the question. A flippant response was not adequate. Perhaps that is why my friend did not answer the question initially. Instead, she has been chewing on the question for weeks—wondering, pondering, considering, and musing. As I listened to my friend, I recognized an important LIFE lesson. In the aftermath of significant change—during times of transition—we rarely have the luxury of reflecting on our experience. Instead, we focus on what must be done to confront the challenges. We are all about DOING, not BEING. But if we are to fully embrace the changes in LIFE, reflection and contemplation of “How has LIFE changed me?” is needed. We can then mourn our losses as well as celebrate the blessings. We have the opportunity to live intentionally—fully present to the moment. We can choose to balance our losses with subsequent benefits.

I realize the process of revisiting LIFE changing moments can be painful—remembering that which you have lost. However, by conjuring up the courage to do so, you have the opportunity to discover how LIFE has changed you. Braver. Bolder. More compassionate. More caring. More loving. More committed. More courageous. More faithful—than ever before.

LIFE is ultimately a journey of becoming—often prompted by transformational changes. Having experienced numerous losses in life, I know that becoming can be an excruciating process. But I also know that by engaging and moving through the process intentionally, healing happens. Yes, we are changed by LIFE. But we need not be destroyed. It is during the times that try our souls that we discover the essence of who we truly are—and who we are becoming. So, “How has LIFE changed you?”

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.