I was looking over some websites for caregivers recently and came across a topic I found interesting. The host was discussing how some make Christmas "wishes," and inquired: “What is your wish for those who care for you?” Now, I am not certain how my husband and daughter would feel about being categorized as "caregivers" in any formal sense, but they do care for and about me, so I believe that qualifies. And while I appreciate the never-failing support they offer me during my darkest days, I have never really attempted to spell out in any proper manner what I wish for them. I spent quite a bit of time contemplating that this weekend, considering and evaluating what my hopes for them truly are, and though my list is no doubt incomplete, here are a few of my fondest wishes:
* Above all else, I wish for them to know and genuinely feel the love and appreciation I have for them. I value them above all others, and despite my sometimes harsh words, raw emotions, unreasonable expectations and demands, and temper tantrums to the contrary, they have never once truly disappointed me in any noteworthy way. They are the constants who add stability and meaning to my life, the ones I know I can count on regardless of circumstances, no matter how difficult my days.
* I wish for them to grasp how special, how exceptional, they are for finding the strength to withstand the cruel realities of this illness, to persist despite the horrors of Gastroparesis which affect everyone in my life, but them far more than any others. They bear physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual burdens which directly flow from my diagnosis and which cannot be ignored but must be daily addressed. They are meaningfully and significantly impacted by my poor state of health; yet, rather than abandon, neglect, or disregard me, they exert endless effort to include, forgive, and accommodate me, and they fully believe their lives are better off with my presence than without. Many times and in many instances, they have sacrificed material possessions, leisure activities, luscious meals, free time, and emotional peace because their love for and commitment to me outweighs their focus on “self.”
* I wish for them to live free from guilt and with a focus, if only for brief spells, on their own well-being and happiness rather than feeling as if their lives must always center around me and my wretched Gastroparesis. My husband and daughter are both brave and kind for silently and patiently enduring the limitations placed upon me and upon them because of this disease. And though I am the one who cannot eat, perform typical (yet energy-draining) household chores, run errands, attend events, or participate in any number of activities which used to be commonplace, they are impacted by this as well. They do their best to hide and downplay it, but I see the guilt and sorrow which haunt them when they choose to engage without me in celebrations, family gatherings, and school happenings, or, on the other hand, when they forgo those events because they are needed at home or do not wish to leave me alone during the holidays or on other such occasions. In truth, in my heart, and in spite of my sometimes selfishly voiced objections, it is my hope that they pursue the activities and endeavors which bring them joy, even if those pursuits do not include me. They have lives, dreams, and goals of their own, and they have already forfeited so many of these for my benefit. I want them to live the most “normal” lives possible without fear I will feel abandoned or excluded and without regret that they somehow “missed out” on opportunities.
* I wish them peace in their hearts and contentment in their souls regardless of circumstances and outcomes. Hardships abound, and my fate may not be the one we would all prefer, but they must be at peace with whatever occurs, as I am. That sort of serenity comes from inside and from knowing there is something beyond our current state, a purpose for our existence, an ultimate plan for our being – and it is possible to rest in that knowledge. It is difficult to endure adversity, and it is almost never welcome, but one can experience overall happiness and tranquility despite the trying days, and this is my hope for them.
* Lastly, I wish – hope beyond hope and dream beyond what is rational – that one day, we will all live free from the punishing effects of this illness, that there will be a cure, or a remission, or merely a more effective treatment, which allows my family to once again participate in long abandoned endeavors and which frees our lives from the burdens so cruelly imposed upon us. And short of this, I wish for them joy in the times we have together and certainty of knowledge that I am grateful for each moment spent with them, even when I fail to express this.
* To my husband and my daughter: What we have endured together has strengthened us, sealed our commitment, united us for eternity. You are my one wish come true, all that I value and all that I love, happiness, contentment, fulfillment, and delight. You have made my life worth living and, despite the hardships, the sorrows, and the ever-increasing difficulties, I would trade this life for no other.