How to See the Sweetness in the Stress of Caring for 2 Generations


end of life

I checked in on my sister this morning. She is caring for my dad for me while I am away helping my daughter, Megan, with her newborn. I asked how it was going with dad and she said, “He is up a lot at night. It’s hard. How is it there?” I looked down at the sweet face of my grandson, James, and replied, “He’s up a lot at night, too. But it’s precious.” Somewhere on the flight from Tampa to DC, I flew through an invisible window in the sky that separates a divide in my heart. I left someone I love at the end of life to see someone I love at the beginning of his life.

I feel very unprepared to walk this emotionally mixed season well. I watched James come into the world and I am watching my dad struggle to stay in the world. How do we live in the midst of such joy and sorrow at the same time? How do I lovingly serve both seasons of life?

The comparison between my dad and my grandson is startling and confusing. How can the beginning of life mimic the end of life? Is this the lesson for me—to treasure every minute of the in-between?

Perhaps the lesson is to find joy in both the beginning and the end because they are both from God. Comparing the two has given me compassion for my dad that didn’t exist before James was born. My dad was once a baby, then a father who held me, and now, it is my turn to hold him.

Perhaps if we view them the same, we will find the compassion to care for those suffering as well as we care for babies—with patience and love. Can you envision a time when you will care for your parents as you are caring for your child? The beginning and the end are so similar—my dad and James are so similar, too. I want to love them both well.

Both get physically frustrated.

James is discovering his body and experiencing the thrill of new abilities. That can bring frustration as he tries to master unfamiliar skills. My father is adjusting to his “failing” body and is experiencing the sadness of losing his abilities and the frustration that comes with trying to work around his disabilities.

Both need constant care.

After arriving home after James was born, I realized I needed the same baby monitor for my dad that Megan uses for James. My dad and James both have sleepless nights. They both have schedules and instructions for sitters and caregivers. One has a baby bathtub, one has a shower seat. They cannot meet their needs on their own.

Both need relationship.

When I am with James, I know he needs my attention, love, and care. My father needs those things from me, too. We all crave love from the beginning to the end. And it is so interesting that a newborn needs so much bonding time. The same is true for the end of life—people nearing the end require our time and if we take the time, it can be just as sweet. I think God designed the beginning and the end of life to require time and space for love and relationships. Life is all about loving well.

As I watch my daughter with James, I know it would never cross her mind that “one day, sweet James, you will care for me as I have cared for you.” But I am thinking it. James will care for her and I know she will care for me. It is sad but it is sweet. Joy and sorrow at the same time.

As moms, we are always taking care of someone. I pray that you will find joy as you care for those you love no matter what their age or stage of life.

Share about a time you felt joy and sorrow simultaneously.

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