People serve in many different ways. The courageous men and women who serve in all branches of the military deserve our thanks, care, compassion and respect.
There are those who also serve who do not wear a uniform or ship out to a hostile land. There are those, much less in the limelight, who serve with quiet dignity, integrity, diligence, love and personal sacrifice. They are the men and women who put their lives on hold to care for an aging family member; some even taking them into their own homes. This involves a sacrifice of personal space and liberty as they make room for one or more of their family who can no longer live on their own, or for their own reasons, do not want to be in a nursing home.
My brave and sweet sister-in-law is one of those unsung heroes. She and her husband lovingly and carefully moved her mother and all her belongings into their home, and have made a beautiful space for her with all her treasures around her. Although this isn’t always easy on any of them, they somehow make it work.
People like my sister-in-law inspire by their quiet grace and strength. It is hard to be a witness to the gradual and relentless decline of a loved one, especially a mother. Mothers embody the very meaning of strength, endurance, endless patience, sacrifice, and boundless love. The mother-daughter bond is like no other; there is an unspoken heart-to-heart connection that transcends time and distance.
So we women, as daughters, slowly evolve into mothers of our own mothers as time moves on. We learn to watch for potential dangers and pitfalls the way they once watched over us. To those of us who never had our own children, like my sister-in-law and me, this is a challenge like no other. How much to do, how much to say without offending or making our mothers feel like children. I know that my own heart hurts when I see my own strong, beautiful, fearless, witty, incredible and multi-talented mother sit down more often because of leg and foot pain. These days her energy is limited, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
We daughters, watching covertly over our moms, also think of the day when we ourselves begin to falter and fail. We who do not have children wonder who will be our advocate and voice, and who will hold our hand when we are ready to leave this earth.
But that time for us is not yet. So strong and loving women like my sister-in-law spend their days listening for a cough, a step, a call for help. They stand by to lend a hand, prepare meals, comfort and support as needed. Women like these deserve our respect, admiration and support. There is an old hymn called “I Stand All Amazed” that I think of when I see my sister-in-law in action; I stand all amazed when I see what she does every day. I wonder if I will be as good, as kind, as giving and as loving as she is when it is my turn to care for my mom. I hope so.