I just want to pause for a moment or two today to take a little time for those who are caregivers of one or both of their parents. In today's rush-rush, get it all done world, we sometimes work ourselves to a frazzle and forget about the many blessings taking care of this loved one actually places in our lives. I know there are moments when mom, with failing eyesight can't see what she cannot see, creating a little more more work for me in the long run; and her hearing becoming less and less acute, that I just want to throw up my hands and get a little frustrated when I have to repeat what has just been said not once, but multiple times until she gets it. Yet, in the moments in between those moments of seeing the little extra work, or repeating the same things again, I relish the times we spend just hanging together as companions. To those who are caregivers, I salute you. I reach out to you with a heart of understanding, knowing full-well that your life gets a little "bogged down" on occasion especially when you'd like to be foot-loose and fancy-free. I also know how challenging it will be to have only the memories of that loved one with you long after he or she has departed this earth for eternity.
A widow who really needs help is one who has been left all alone. She trusts God to take care of her. She prays all the time, night and day, and asks God for help. (I Timothy 5:5 ERV)
Some things you may not want to miss right now in those moments you have that mother or father at your side, are really captured in one simple action - a hug.
- It doesn't have to be for a reason, and it may shock them once in a while to just reach out and envelope them in a big bear hug, but do it. You may not realize it, but they need that hug as much as you needed to give it. The benefits of a hug have been studied over the ages have recognized not only the emotional benefits (such as reducing loneliness and anxiety), but the physical benefits which actually help to reduce the effects of disease in the body.
- Did you realize that a hug builds and reinforces trust. When two bodies draw close together, almost as though one heart is touching the heart of another, close enough to actually hear the other breathe and even hear the beat of their heart, trust is shared. There is a deep sense of safety which passes between the two. In your younger years, that sense of trust was established when they hugged you - now it is your turn to pass that sense of safety onto them!
- Something is released in a hug deep within the center of our brain - a chemical response which gives us a sense of well-being and just a "good feeling". I don't know about you, but sometimes there aren't enough "good feeling" actions in my day to make up for all the "bad feeling" actions I must endure while dealing with the pressures at work. That simple action of whatever is released (I think it is the chemical known as oxytocin), opens our hearts to renewal and our minds to peace. Not a bad return for a couple of seconds just holding someone close.
- If you aren't a "toucher" or "hugger", you probably won't understand this next one, so hang on. Touch actually builds self-confidence, or what some might call a sense of self-worth and value. When someone cares enough to touch you - to make that connection - there is something exchanged in that moment which says you are a valued part of their life. I don't always stop to hug mom, but we do take hands as watch TV or listen to a book on CD. Either one of us just reaches out to the other across the couch and takes a hand for a moment or two. Those bony fingers, worn by time and lots of hard work, just encase mine. Herein is the passage of something not well-studied, but certainly "felt" in that moment of connection. Don't forget even the simplest of embraces can make all the difference in a person's life - even when it is just reaching out to take a hand for just a moment.
- Hugs also help us release what is being held up in our bodies - like the tensions of the day. I often hug my BFF, not because I have to, but because we appreciate each other. We also can sense the tension in the other's life at the moment and there are times when that hug just lingers a moment longer, or is a little "tighter" - when those pressures of the day just seem to melt away. It goes without saying - we all need this "pressure release". Even our elderly parents have their pressures, for they worry about their failing health, think about the needs of the family as they see them growing up and moving on, and then they feel the pressures put upon you as their caregiver, knowing full-well you had enough already to do in your busy world. Help them as much as you help yourself - hug away that tension! You may one day reach out to hold them near and find the time has passed you by. Don't let it escape you - hug them now and hug them often! Just sayin!