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Life is fragile

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

As a caregiver, there is very little I take for granted. Years ago, a friend gave me a bronze-colored glass refrigerator magnet which says, "Life is fragile. Handle it with prayer." Regardless of whether or not one chooses prayer as a means of handling life's challenges, one thing is certain. "Life is fragile." Period.

I noticed that the petite and casually dressed woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store pushed a wheelchair as she talked to a disabled, much older, and frail woman seated in the wheelchair. The older lady said very little, occasionally whispering "yes" or "no."

One Priceless Caregiving Moment

The younger woman said, "Oh, I am sorry, 'Mammu!' I forgot that you like to eat these while we are in the store. Let me open the bag for you while I get our groceries checked out."

The caregiver took a large bag of potato chips off the conveyor belt, opened the top of the bag and gently handed the open bag to the lady in the wheelchair. The caregiver pulled one chip out of the bag and handed it to the older woman who munched as she smiled for the first time. I didn't mind waiting in line as I was touched by the tender loving caregiving scene unfolding before my eyes. I felt blessed to witness such caring.

Reflecting on Caregiving Situations

Although I didn't know either of the women, I asked the younger woman whether the lady in the wheelchair was her mother. She identified the older woman as her grandmother for whom she cares daily, half-days each morning. After providing assistive in-home caregiving support to her grandmother, she goes to a paying job each afternoon after another relative comes in to care for her grandmother and grandfather for the remainder of the day.

She smiled broadly the entire time she talked. She mentioned her grandmother and grandfather are all she has now, since her mother died at the age of 66 in November 2008.

November 2008. I reflected. That is the same month I decided to leave the paying workforce to become a stay-at-home caregiver to my mother.

Life is Fragile

When she mentioned her mother's sudden death, she started tearing up, as did I. "Life is fragile," I thought as my eyes were brimming with tears. She cried as she told me that her mother had been "the picture of health," living a healthy lifestyle right up until the day she died.

The caregiver lamented she had failed to answer a cell phone call from her mother shortly before her mother died. She believes her mother called to ask her for help because she had suddenly taken ill and needed aid. Her mother died a few minutes later, coinciding with the timing of the phone call. Since her mother's death, she does not turn her cell phone off and answers every call.

She cherishes being a caregiver to her grandparents after having learned just how fragile life can be.