By now you have likely unwrapped your Christmas presents, picked up the pieces of wrapping paper and are thinking about what to do with your new treasures. Or perhaps, you received something that isn’t quite your taste or style. Or something you aren’t sure what to do with.
I”m borrowing today’s post title from our minister’s Christmas Eve service homily. He began by sharing how as a child he and his brother would always place the presents from their aunt last. Her presents were sweaters, socks and gloves. Not the toys that a young boy would want. Throughout the message he shared that the reality was he and his brother truly needed those presents. The gloves came in handy when it was time to play in the snow and the sweaters and socks were warm. The world did not see Jesus’ birth as a wanted present but years later we are able to celebrate the gift we have been given.
The service had me thinking about my own life, currently and in the past.
I have ever reason in the world to tell you that 2013 has been one of the worse years in my life. However, I truly do not feel like that. Perhaps I am still in some type of shock as I write this but I also believe I practice what I encourage my clients to do on a regular basis, which is to find the graditude in the situation.
I have been blessed this week as that on Christmas Eve the exact same peace I felt as I sat by Mom’s bedside came over me. It was a feeling of that this will all be OK. I am where I should be. I can attribute that to nothing more than the grace of God. Of course, the past two days were akward, James and I spent Christmas Eve together rather than with my Mom and Nanny and we did not have to coordinate dinner schedules between our families on Christmas Day. I don’t feel like it was two days I had to “struggle” through but two days I redesigned.
Back to the subject of unanswered gifts. Many of you may not understand when I make the statement that I truly look at the past year as providing me with gifts – I would not have preferred to have these gifts but I feel my life can become better for the events which I have encountered.
I loved my Mother, I always will love my her. We had a wonderful relationship but since age 10 after my Dad’s death, I felt I was responsible for her. In the grief world we describe it as being the parentified child. I was one of those children who was told to “take care of your Mom” and I took it to heart. You cold have called me and old soul but it wasn’t unusual for adults to think I was much older than my years. I do not blame my Mom as she was trying to figure out how to make it in a world without my Dad. I helped take up the slack, took on responsiblities I shouldn’t have, lost most of the years of my adolescene.
Over the summer I was talking with a friend how I made the decision to not attend college at a school out of state. Although my Mom never said she didn’t want me to go, I couldn’t imagine being almost 6 hours away from her. Suprisingly the thought was never, what if I needed her but what if she needed me? As I grew older, the need to care for her was not as great but I was always her confidant, the one she vented to about issues that I probably didn’t need to know.
Years later, my own personal experince would help me with parents and their own children. I spoke from experience when I provided encouragement about what to expect and who had what responsiblity. When you are grieving, you don’t realize if you are establishing unhealthy family patterns. My gift to my clients was to help them to see what could be done differenty. This is something I could not have done without my own personal experince.
I wanted to return home from graduate school to be closer to my Mom (although never in the same city). Even as an adult, I worried about her. She depeneded upon me as we walked through the maze of testing and treatments after her diagnosis. I told her I would make sure she would be comfortable.
So what is the gift among the loss of my Mom? My Mother supported me but I also know I allowed her to hold me back in regards to the world. I do feel that everything happens for a reason and that I am exactly where I need to be at this reason. If I had gone out of state, I proabably would have not met James. If I had gone to medical school as I initally thought about doing, I may have never worked for Hospice.
I may not be certain for sometime what the gifts of this year will be. However, I know that I feel I get to have my own life (and writing that is a little painful but I’ve always made decisions centered around what my Mom might need). Mom’s illness prompted me to finally take the jump and leave a job that I continued to love but felt confined and restriticted. Mom’s death has allowed me to reevaluate relationships and how much energy and time I have for indidivudlas who may not have time for me. Her death has made me think about what I want to do with my own life. As I previously written, her life events made her hesitant and I think sometimes fearful. Her fear has enabled me to do many things that she could or would not do.
Please don’t get me wrong, I would have taken care of my Mom and Nanny for years. James and I always told them they could live with us and had a bedroom prepared. I would love to have both of their hands to hold and to be able to hug them. However, I have worked with family members who were long term caregivers, we are talking 5,7,10 years. I know the toll that occurs on an individual who takes on the role of caregiver and juggles a full time job, marriage, children and if they are lucky friendships. In the scheme of things, I was a caregiver for Mom for four months and for Nanny four months after.
Eight months is a gift compared to many. Both were able to stay in their homes until their death. We finacially had the resources to care for each of them. The reality is it is a gift to know that we did not have to consider hiring paid caregivers or nursing home care. God provides gifts that we aren’t often able to see at the time.
As for the unanswered prayer part of this post. James has often reminded me that if the miscarriage had not occurred, I would have been 6 months pregnant at the time of Mom’s diagnosis and the baby would have been born three weeks before her death. “Could you imagine what your postpartum would have been like? James has stated. There are moments when I don’t want to think that our miscarriage could have been a gift but there are also an equal amount of moments when I’m not certain what I would have done with the death of my Mom, Nanny and a newborn.
I have no idea what you may be experincing in your own life but I encourage you to change your view point and perhaps consider that the difficult moments you are going through could very well be a gift if you are open to the thought and idea.
Just as was noted in the Christmas Eve service, sometimes you don’t appreciate the gift until you truly need it.