In my experience, there is nothing more difficult than watching someone you love suffer. Being a caregiver of any kind is extremely time consuming, and you inevitably lose a bit of yourself in the process. However, caring for someone whose illness and pain is beyond your control is something you can only understand if you've experienced it firsthand.
I've learned a great deal about life limits, perspective, and grief because I was my son's primary caregiver. For now I only want to talk about life limits. At some point during your "journey" you have to learn a difficult lesson...YOU DON'T CONTROL ANYTHING. You can try to hold onto that notion of control for dear life. You can even continue to make plans for days, months, years in advance. And you don't have to be experiencing something awful to fall into this category. That's the thing, none of us have any control. But, difficult life experiences have a nasty way of teaching this lonely lesson. The other thing you begin to understand is that hard work and determination don't always pay off. Try telling that to people who have spent their entire lives devoted to sports. You're told in virtually every aspect of your life that if you just work hard enough and just want it badly enough, you'll get your desired result. So what happens when life says, "actually, not so much"?
I'll tell you what happens. You become angry and confused, hurt and defeated. You look into the eyes of those around you for encouragement and healing. And although they mean well, they can't give you what you need. You just keep pushing and trying and "fighting." And let me tell you something about "fighting." It's wonderfully motivating to have people encouraging you to FIGHT and to WIN! But, I believe it's also important to know that sometimes fighting doesn't look the way you want it to look. Sometimes it has a different face, and that's when you really find the fighter inside. That's when you really have to dig down deep and say, "ok, everything I know to be true must be set aside because I love this person more than my next breath." That is a nearly impossible kind of fight. The one you do while there is still hope is exhausting and aggravating and seemingly endless, but the one that shows you a clear end in the opposite direction will crush your soul. And still...you do it.
I'm not looking for martyr points. I'm not expecting a medal of honor. But, I do have a perspective here and I think it's important to share it. What I'm trying to convey is that sometimes when you're encouraging someone, it's important to do it in a realistic way. Of course it's necessary to lift others up and to give them renewed strength for their fight, but it is equally as important to realize that the fight may not be what you expected and they're going to need the encouragement for that part as well.
So, to my fellow warrior moms out there who continue to fight every single day, this one is for you. Whether you're in the throws of illness and making impossibly heartbreaking decisions, or if you're the one whose fight appears to be over to the outside world, I'm calling out to you to keep going. Keep going in the direction you feel necessary. Most of the time, in this special little world we've entered, we're forced to make decisions that could potentially end someone's life. And you constantly ask yourself, "How in the HELL am I supposed to come up with an answer that won't destroy everything? Why does every question have to be, which one of these sucks less?" We already know that there is no right or wrong here. Any decision guided by love is going to be the best option. And sometimes that means love for yourself, too. Don't forget that underneath all of the martyrdom and the "strength" and the holding up of another life, there is still a YOU. You matter, too. I carry all of you in my heart. I feel for those who still belong to my old club of tireless, yearning mothers. I feel for your decisions and your heartache, your desire for hope and your constant despair. I also carry those moms who belong to my new club. I feel for the heaviness of your empty arms and that burn in the middle of your chest. I feel for the way you're blindsided by pain each and every day. I feel for your longing and your guilt, your grief and your angst. But most of all, I feel for the fact that you very much understand that sometimes "fight" has a different face.