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Care Is Giving

November is the month before last with so many feelings around being close to ending the year and positively looking forward to the New Year approaching.

I love the fall and this is a great season with many lessons. I appreciate how others celebrate the holidays approaching, especially Thanksgiving. The calendar highlights “Family Caregivers Month” in November. Family caregivers are especially people to be thankful for because of their selfless acts of kindness and service to their loved ones.

November is my grandmother’s birthday. She was a true caregiver and loved her family. When I reflect on her memory, I am very much astonished by how she shared herself with her husband, ten siblings, 6 children, raised me while extending her grandma hands to 10 more, 9 great-grandchildren, and would have to 1 great-great-granddaughter who was born a year after she departed this side of heaven.

I want to share a story that was more of a storm for my grandmother, my family, for me, and yet we all responded differently. In April of 1994, I remember my cousin Nicole sitting at the dining room table when she sneezed with food in her mouth. My grandmother was from Mississippi and superstitions were her signs and wonders. She declared, “O Lord, that means someone is going to pass.” I made a mental note, asked Nicole if she was okay, and continued playing monopoly with my friend who came to celebrate Easter with my family. Some time had passed, grandma was cooking, grandpa, uncles, and cousins were screaming at the football players on the screen, and we were still playing monopoly when we got a call. My eyes were always fixed on grandma so when she dropped the phone and screamed “Joe Joe is dead” I jumped across the table as the men were still screaming at the television screen. I yelled, “Uncle Joe Joe is dead.” My aunt who picked up the phone in the backroom is now dragging her body on the hallway floor screaming. I ran out of the house with one of my uncles behind me to my mom’s house to tell her that her baby brother was gone.

The moment is seared in my mind as I remember my mom and uncle meeting in the street hugging and breaking down because their baby brother was gone. There were so many emotions and I became grandma's go-to girl. When everyone left and it was only my grandparents remaining, I watched my grandmother sit on the couch as the tears rolled. I remember her murmuring prayers and mumbling hymns as she was on tranquilizers to help her rest. My grandfather was still recovering from the heart attack he had not too long ago. My grandmother’s sister was in a catatonic state 2 blocks away and my mother was her caregiver. The family was stretched and I was dead smack in the middle of the madness. On the day of the funeral, I was asked to go and await my uncle’s body at the church with his young daughter. Clearly, no one was thinking about me being 14, but I learned how to give care during the storm of ‘94. Two months later we lost my grandmother’s sister, my grandfather on my uncle’s birthday in October. Within six months, she lost her son, her sister, and her husband!

Whether I realized it or not at the time, my grandmother modeled self-care after some of her greatest losses. She decided to live and not die. On tranquilizers, she was still holding onto Jesus. Her murmurs and mumbles were seeds deposited that make scripture plain “when my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I” – Psalm 61:2. Jesus is the ultimate caregiver. He gave himself for SOMEONE IN NEED (SIN). She knew that she still had to live for God as it would benefit her and those who God entrusted in her care. Caregiving is not easy; it is a responsibility. It is an assignment – "a sign meant for you" that God trusts you to bear the burdens of another. It is the call to love your neighbor like yourself until God calls you unto Himself. Happy Family Caregivers Month!

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