Stuck in the Moment?

2010 August 15

Few people in life possess true certainty. And even fewer possess certainty about death. For caregivers of terminally ill patients, however, the certainty of a loved one’s impending death isn’t something you can put out of your mind; it’s something you live under the influence of every minute of the day.

When I was helping care for my terminally ill mother, my thoughts retreated from the certainty of a terminal future. It didn’t take long for me to realize that thoughts of the future are luxuries of indulgence that most of use to get us through the monotony of every day.

But this isn’t the case for the millions of caregivers who care for loved ones who are terminally ill. We know the future. It knows us. It doesn’t wait for us to come to it. It comes to us.  When you don’t dare dream about the future, the present is your only refuge.

The present is where most of us think we want to be. We constantly remind ourselves to ‘live in the moment.’Carpe diem!’Live like every moment is your last.’ These sayings are inspiring to healthy-bodies who have to remind themselves that life is fleeting. But for caregivers who care under the influence of dying, there need be no reminder.

Contemplating what we will do or what will happen in the future is most everyone’s favorite preoccupation. It not only frees us from the constraints of the present, it gives us something to talk about. Something to dream about. Something to anticipate. Something to bring us closer to one another. A reason to get up in the morning.  A reason to endure.

If you are a caregiver for a loved one who is terminally ill and have wondered why you sometimes feel so alone—the answer lies in the future. You may be surrounded by people but don’t be surprised if you still feel alone. Others can’t understand. We are different.  Your thoughts and body are in the same place while most others’ bodies and thoughts never meet. They escape their present with thoughts of how things will change. As caregivers, we can’t escape into the future because we know the future. The only problem is that we’ve been rewarded for  living our lives using tomorrow as a reason for today. I only wish someone had prepared me for how to care and communicate without the crutch of the future.

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