by Bill and Monica Dodds
As the Church marks Respect Life Month 2011, we want to say “thank you” to those of you who are family caregivers. We know that you are keeping busy, and we suspect that you may not have had the time to notice that caregiving is much more than what it seems to be at first glance.
Yes, it’s all those obligations, commitments, details and worries, but if you’re caregiving you’re also:
• Obeying the Fourth and Fifth Commandments: Honor your father and your mother, and you shall not kill.
You’re showing your respect for your parent or other senior family member in a tremendous way by taking care of him or her. And, at a time when euthanasia advocates are becoming more vocal, you’re promoting life by helping your care-receiver.
Caregiving is pro-life!
• Honoring your marriage vows. Perhaps most brides and grooms focus on “for richer or for poorer” and don’t realize what “in sickness and in health” can truly mean. Now you know. And you’re there, fulfilling that commitment.
• Living the corporal works of mercy, which include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and those in prison and burying the dead.
Some of these seem obvious if, for example, your spouse needs assistance with eating or dressing. But what about sheltering the homeless if you and your care-receiver don’t live in the same place?
It could be that you make that assisted-living or long-term care center room “home” by visiting a resident there.
What about prison? As a mind and body deteriorate, a person can feel imprisoned. And you’re there.
And burying the dead? That day may come. But, in the meantime, you may play a role in helping your loved one prepare for death.
• Picking up your cross daily. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus teaches: “Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
It may not be on a daily basis, but caregiving involves sacrifice. It includes “dying to yourself” for the sake of your loved one.
• Being as surprised as the “sheep” on Judgment Day. In Matthew 25:37-40, the “righteous” ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” And, the king answers, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
What you’re doing for the person in your care, you’re doing for Christ.
God bless you!
You can find out more about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Respect Life Program for 2011-2012 at www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program.
Bill and Monica Dodds are the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver and editors of My Daily Visitor magazine (www.FSJC.org). Bill’s latest novels are “Pope Bob” and “My Great-Grandfather Turns 12 Today.”