But the Greatest of These is Love

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

The past week has been one of the most exhausting weeks I’ve had in a very long time.

For those of you who know me or know me through this blog, you know that I lost my mother when I was in high school.  I don’t talk much about my father, but he is not in the US, and although we are in contact and I love him, we are not traditionally close (proximally or relationally).  My in-laws are young and across the country, and although I love them, if the time were to come for their care, I would play more of a support role as my husband and his siblings looked out for them.  In other words, elder care was not something I really thought a lot about.

Until last Wednesday night.

My 80-year old aunt, who had been in California, waiting to return to China, had a sudden medical emergency.  Being the closest relative (who spoke the best English), my cousin asked me to check on her.  She was admitted to the ER, transferred to a hospital, and spent 5 roller-coaster days in that hospital until her discharge to a skilled nursing facility yesterday.  The hospital is at least an hour away from my home and I visited each day, trying to get the correct information and advocating for my aunt, supporting her on this road to recovery.  It has been physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting.

(If you are the praying type, she could use your prayers still, as could we, her family)

This blog post isn’t really about elder care (although I have such an increased appreciation and empathy for friends and colleagues who are engaged in ongoing elder care), however. Rather, it is about love and support in one’s hardest moments.  It is about light in the midst of darkness. It is about knowing you are seen, loved and appreciated for who you are and not solely for what you do.

In this past week, although I haven’t been very public about the situation with my aunt, I have told a few people: family, close friends, church family, work friends that I’ve had to cancel meetings with, and everyone has been so supportive and loving.  Not once has someone given me a heavy sigh of disappointment. Everyone has offered to accommodate or support.  Everyone has offered love and prayers.  Many have reminded me about the importance of self-care.  I truly have the best tribe in the whole world and I am beyond grateful for their care for me.

This past Monday also happened to be my 13th wedding anniversary.  My husband has been incredibly generous with me in this past week.  He has not once shown concern for himself, but has supported me during each trip to the hospital, watching the kids, checking in about my aunt, reassuring me that they’re fine at home and that what I’m doing is exactly the right thing.  I thought I might need to cancel our anniversary lunch (we don’t get a lot of couple time together) and he was so understanding (we didn’t end up canceling it because my aunt was more stable by Monday).  He has been love exemplified, and has given me the peace of knowing that our family is taken care of while I take care of my aunt.

Finally, there is beauty, blessing and joy in spending time with my aunt.  While my aunt has had some cognitive struggles due to her age, we shared several beautiful moments over the last week.  I was feeding her dinner on Sunday evening and she apologized for the trouble of having to feed her.  I reassured her that it was the least I could do, feeding her, after she had helped my mom with me when I was a baby.  She looked at me, thanked me, and then, with much effort and just as much tenderness, said, “I really enjoyed it.  When you were little.” I am still tearing up as I remember these words.  Without my mom, I haven’t been able to have the perspective of someone who was an adult when I was a baby and saw me grow up through those eyes.  It was truly a gift to me.

So, I have been reminded this week that life is a journey; a continuous, unpredictable, and sometimes hard journey.  But with love, it is made beautiful, even in the most difficult moments.

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