Caring, Grieving and Remembering When the World’s On Fire

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Centre of Excellence (CCCE) Summit. It was three days of continuously invigorating, challenging and hopeful discussions. I will write more in the coming days about the Summit and what I learned, but today I want to reflect on the meaning of care in times when part of the world is at war. Today is Remembrance Day and the news is full of unimaginable violence and brutality in the Middle East. The CCCE is powered by the Azrieli Foundation and Naomi Azrieli in her opening remarks at the Summit reflected on how we must persevere in caring even when “the world is on fire.” This is a post that I wrote on Remembrance Day in 2019 and it seems especially appropriate today. 

 November is a sombre month. The leaves have fallen where I live, and the skies are steely gray. Rain changes to sleet and then back to rain again. Geese cry overhead.

On the streets, most people are wearing poppies. “Lest we forget” is a warning phrase we see in bus stations, on facebook and on veteran sponsored ads on television. I won’t forget the sacrifices made by our soldiers, because my Dad was one who fought in Europe during WW11. He was one of the lucky ones – he came back.

My Dad was kind, gentle, quiet and very funny. My sister and I adored him. In 1973, he suffered the first of three strokes and for two years until his death, my Mom, my sister and I cared for him at home.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of care over years – how care changes and how it changes us. Maybe it’s the melancholy of November or perhaps it’s the messages I see in my news feed about Caregiver Month and Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day as it’s called in the US).

Yesterday I listened to an extraordinary podcast interview with Dr. Arthur Kleinman, author of The Illness Narratives and his latest book, The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor. For ten years, Dr. Kleinman cared for his wife who had Alzheimer’s. He also happens to be a medical anthropologist at Harvard. But here’s what he said that reminded me of my own life of caring and of my Dad:

“The real issue about caregiving is that there’s no Hollywood ending. So, how do we endure? This is the challenge. We are never sure that we can endure the unendurable. How do we keep going?

Image result for arthur kleinman wife
How many people come to a wall and feel that we can’t get over it but because of love, we get over it. Love and moral commitment. The last part is that care does not end with the death of the person – you care for memories after that. Building a story about one’s life and one’s family. And central to that is memory, memory of the care you gave and what went before… the time we spend developing those stories.”

I do remember my Dad and in that way, I continue caring for him. And this month, I salute every other caregiver who is with someone who needs them, finding a way to scale a wall of despair and exhaustion because of love.

#Caring #Grieving #Remembering #Worlds #Fire

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