I do not believe that I was born to be a caregiver and yet that is how I define myself. When I was younger, I remember struggling to take care of myself – not taking care of others. I was the fourth of seven children and I do not remember helping to care for my younger siblings. My father was ill for the last four years of his life. I was 16 and I did not take care of him because I was afraid of doing something wrong.
I wanted to learn how to take care of people and I wanted to feel confident in caring for others. Going to Georgia Baptist Hospital School of Nursing was the most significant event in my life – before John and my children. I found this note in my old bible recently. It was from a woman in my little country church. She gave it to me the day she took me to Atlanta in 1967 to begin nursing school. “Dear Ann, Keep your chin up, your heart happy, your eyes turned toward your “high calling”. Ever keep your hand and heart ready to serve. Depend on your Lord and Savior for surely He is to be found in this place. Call us if ever your need us – collect. God loves you. Joyce”. I was at a place where I could learn to take care of people – but a place where I was cared for also. The religious part of my nursing education was woven into our care of patients. Every Wednesday after Vesper Service, we walked around outside of the hospital and sang. Some of the older patients thought they had died and were hearing the angels singing. Our hospital was a faith centered place of healing. I felt that this was definitely God’s plan for my life. I felt that I belonged there and people cared about me – friends, instructors, faculty, even patients.
So, how did I become a caregiver? I truly believe that God has blessed me in so many ways, that I find it easy to share that love and care with others. At one of my jobs, I walked into a room of a 97 year old lady that I had never met before. I walked in and smiled and said hello. She said, “oh my where did you get that incredible smile? – you look just like sunshine.” I was a little stunned but I said the first thing that came to my head, “I am incredibly blessed with a wonderful husband who loves me and two terrific sons”. I did not tell her of some of my other blessings. I always have a warm home to go to; I always have plenty of food; I have wonderful friends who love me; I have an education and a job (if I want one); I have a large family; and I have a faith community that is the foundation of my life. I find it so easy to visit with people, hold their hands, listen to their stories, share my nursing skills, share my laughter, and share God’s love. I always say that I love “old people” and that is true. But now I am one of them! In fact I love most people, especially the elderly and my “church kids”, and the children and grandchildren of my friends, and just about anyone else.
I have been given so much in this life. My journey as a caregiver is a gift from God. My life’s journey is one of sharing and caring yet receiving so much more that I give.