Sunday, 6 July 2014

CHASING SHADOWS

I woke thinking of friends of mine caught up in one of life's storms.



From a close family, what pain for all when a much loved parent develops something such as Alzheimers. At first, looking the same externally as they always did. But inside, that process of slipping silently away has begun, even before we know that something is wrong they are leaving us. 'Good days' and 'bad days' shift balance until the person left is but a shell of the one we knew so well.  So familiar, so loved by all around them. And in the beginning, they themselves can be very aggravated by forgetting things, snapping at people they care for and experiencing a myriad of feelings of confusion and upset by changes within them that they can not control. However, in time, their consciousness can fade yet further until, the ones around them, they are left grieving for the person they once knew. A shell of their loved one still in front of them but treasured memories once shared now gone. To watch a loved one lose their unique character, their personality, their humour and all the love they once gave to others fade away. Only those left caring for them remain to remember how things used to be (and what a mental burden that is to be carried by the carer)...

'Eventually' it will become obvious that a balance needs to be found between being 'carer' and 'caring for oneself'. A painful step back is needed to find some space from the capacity of this illness to draw in the carer's love, patience and understanding - draining emotional well-being and all the carer's energy without respite. The carer has a duty to themselves as much as to the one they care for. Yet, that step back that is required, that move can only be made when the time is right and each of us can only make that decision for ourselves. Around the person who is the carer, their family and friends also find this period to be a very difficult time - they can support the carer (and yes, they must try to give all the support to the carer that they can) but also, they must not lose sight of the need for balance in their own lives. Such a difficult stage to balance, there are so many challenges to be met by everyone. Nevertheless, as mere human beings, we can so often look back and then be amazed to realise just what we were capable of, so much more than we thought we could be. We CAN manage to navigate our way through life's storms. But each challenge must be faced one day at a time - we can move forward and eventually find our way back out the dark days, back in to the light. Having been a carer to parents, to family and friends myself, in life's difficult times I have found the Serenity Prayer to be a great support. 


A tide's lowest ebb is when it turns and with us too, it is so often when we think we can't hang in there a moment longer. Then we find, from our own remarkable efforts - we find that we finally do turn a corner and a way forward becomes clear. We are capable of so much more than we could ever imagine. Some would wish to protect us, so no tear was ever shed but tears are part of life and learning and  through these times, sad and happy tears - we learn and we grow as people.

Sharing personal experiences, of life's most challenging times, that process can be of use to others currently caught up in the same sort of 'storms' that we have navigated. Myself, generally at ease in expressing myself, at the time I was a carer I found there were many months I had nothing I wanted to say. I didn't want to feel any feelings, let alone express them - but still, I remember that time well.  Therefore, thinking of my friend and what I went through, I wrote this poem today. 

I know how hard it is to watch a loved one fade away and my poem reflects that. But also, now many years later, having passed through that storm (and being so very happy in my life today) I hope that there may be something in what I have shared, no matter how small - just something which makes a difference to anyone who reads this. We can all say to a loved one "you NEED to step back" but, it IS so hard and ultimately, only they can do what they can do. We sail the seas of life together but only each of us can navigate our own way through. Until then, the love of family, of friends  - we can only offer our help to those who are struggling. We can't take away another's pain (much as we would wish to, we can't protect them from all the tears that need to fall) but we can offer out our hand to steady and to guide them. We can offer to them a heart that is full of love. And when words aren't enough for that moment - we can use hugs to convey the love that we feel. 


CHASING SHADOWS 

You were my anchor, my safe port in any storm,
The one who gave me life, kept me safe when I was born.
My sun, my moon, my stars, you built the world I knew.
For all the tears I cry, I know I still “love you”.

Now left to chase your shadow, your sunshine once so bright,
Tho' you can look the same, Alzhemiers hides your light.
A quiet empty stare, at times my sole reward,
And anger you never had - “oh why dear Lord?”

“Why did this have to happen?” How could this ever be?
Child-parent carrying this burden, from which I can’t break free.
Chasing shadows, chasing shadows, like clouds across the sea.
Anchored by our life of love, as you once carried me…

In these times that life's a blur, when love's put to the test,
Safe harbours are ahead, and there I'll take my rest.
Lessons learnt in life, these will serve me well,
But when this chapter closes, only time will tell, 



The strength we require is in each of us




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