It would take empathy, compassion, commitment and love to be the caretaker of someone who's gravely ill and incapable of taking care of one's self. Not everyone is suited for this role. There is no ovation at the end of the day and no Oscar for best performance.
Love is a strong affection for another arising out of kinship, personal ties, warm attachment, enthusiasm, devotion and unselfish and benevolent concerns for the good of others, according to Webster's Dictionary.
According to Mildred – a mother in Missouri – it's standard practice.
Mildred has a 24-year-old son who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. A recent graduate with a civil engineering degree, this young man was deemed healthy with a promising future until one day he decided to go to the dentist for what he thought was a toothache. It turned out to be a lesion under his tongue. After a battery of tests yielded the diagnosis of cancer.
The family was rocked, shocked and in disbelief after hearing the doctor's report. A young man with cancer? Totally unheard of, they thought. The next step was an intensive array of radiation and chemotherapy and the removal of half of the young man's tongue, the removal of half of his right lung, and the removal of three discs from his lower back.
Recovery has been ongoing for the last 15 months. The doctors have done everything humanly possible to save the young man's life. It seemed as though divine intervention was needed. That's where Mildred steps in. She doesn't consider herself the divine one, but she does tend to her son's needs and responds quickly to his calls. Besides, he is her first-born child.
To begin with, Mildred had to resign from her job to provide around-the-clock care for her son. She struggles not knowing what she really is suppose to do or how to perform the required services to make her son comfortable and pain free. Still, she tries. It's her motherly duty, she said.
There is some emotional turmoil, but Mildred keeps going. The situation is weighted by the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome and it scares the heck out of the entire. Will the young man beat the odds? Or will he succumb to death? Mildred doesn't want to think about it, but she knows death is inevitable.
Mildred is not alone in her caretaker's role. Millions of people across America are caring for their sick children and children are caring for their sick parents. Some are confined to the hospital and others languish in care homes. I'm sure it takes a toll on the caretaker and causes undue stress, but unconditional love knows no bounds. Caretakers will continue to make sacrifices even after they become ill themselves.
There are other situations where spouses, friends and family members are forced to become the caretakers of their loved ones. The role of caretaker, notwithstanding the sacrifice it takes, is a job that requires empathy, compassion, commitment and love.
I'm amazed at the sacrifices that people make when caring for loved ones. They put their lives on hold for someone even when that person's health is severe and, in some cases, life-threatening. The job is ongoing and requires around-the-clock services.
There are countless stories that can be told about households in America where families are stressed to the max because a loved one needs special attention. I pray you look after your own health, and if a loved one is gravely ill, find someone who can relieve you in case you have to care for that individual. Otherwise, the stress and emotional turmoil will leave you very exhausted and unable to function under normal circumstances.
Remember, regardless of how healthy you think you are, there are circumstances that none of us can control. Mildred couldn't see her son's cancer coming, but she's making some adjustments nonetheless.