Long-Distance Care

2010 June 11

The farther you are (and feel) from another person, the more words you need to connect with them.  Think about it: You go to a party and you meet someone new. Words, in the form of questions, begin to flow: ‘What do you do?’ ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What are your hobbies?’ Words, words, words.  But, sitting next to your spouse or partner late at night, holding hands, words seem out of place and even necessary.

Unfortunately, most of us have to care, long-distance, for someone we love who is bedridden.  Hundreds or even thousands of miles of long-distances. Phones allow us to connect with our bedridden loved ones, but they only allow us to connect through words. Silence is not allowed in a telephone conversation.  Silence means awkwardness on a phone, to be followed by, ‘Hello, are you there?’  Long-distance care compels us to bridge the distance through the use of the right words so the person we so care about on the other end of the phone will perfectly understand the depth of our care for them.

Long-distance caring devices like phones put too much emphasis on words because there are no right words. It is much harder to care for someone with words than it is with your presence. Holding your loved one’s hand says all that you need to say. It says ‘I love you.’ ‘I value you.’ ‘I’m here for you.’ ‘I hurt with you.’ ‘There’s no other place I’d rather be than with you.’ ‘You are not alone.’

How many words would it take to express these same sentiments, thousands of miles away from your loved one, connected only by a cell phone and an overwhelming desire to make sure the person you care about fully comprehends the depth of your care?

I know that in the world we live in, few of us are able to care for our ill or bedridden loved ones in the same space. Jobs and obligations require us to be everywhere but where we most want to be. But just remember, the next time you pick up the phone to express your care for a loved one, don’t let the medium of the telephone force you into thinking you have to say the perfect words in just the right way that your loved one will fully understand how much you care for them. There are no right words. If you understand this important contradiction before you dial, you won’t hang up feeling emptier than you did before you made the call.

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