Ode to the Caregiver

The church filled up. People near and far, came to share in this extraordinary woman’s life-story. Her light of hope 95-years shining, from America to Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Israel and the Caribbean, serves to remind the world of the great needs that still exist — faith, hope and love — and the greatest of these is love.

Her missionary heart shone through actions more than words. She clearly understood that all the knowledge and all the faith may move mountains, but without love, [we are] nothing. It took 92 or her 95 years for our paths to cross, and life will never be the same. The lessons she infused, the music she absorbed, the love she imparted, all came shining through her daughter — her caregiver — as a boomerang blessing to others. From heaven’s gates to earth’s deepest roots, we are dwelling in one of their proudest care partner moments. Today marks more than a celebration of life; it marks the culmination of a marathon well run. Ode to the caregiver.

This mother-daughter team, friends of mine, displayed fortitude that may seem counter-intuitive to some individuals. After all, study after study speaks of exhaustion, burn-out, and sometimes even death for the marathoner who chooses the tough caregiver race. Daily wear and tear can coerce the strongest to wave a surrender flag. You’ve got to have a mind-set, from the onset. Best strategies are not created solo. Fortitude for caregiver marathons is found in the surrender of going it alone, not of the race itself.

Caregivers do better surrounded by an army of care; the give and take doesn’t just energize us, it negates loneliness and isolation. The data also reveals a different outcome for those who hang in there and keep running. They often become stronger and more resilient over time, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, University of South Florida and University of Minnesota. “The marathoners [reportedly] run farther and faster when they are running alongside others and when loved ones are on the sidelines wildly cheering them on.”

The desire to give back to others is a big motivator for care partners who attend our neighborhood memory cafe gatherings. Ode to the caregiver. She faithfully brought her mother, month after month, despite the ever-present challenges. Stylishly dressed, accented in purple (favorite color!), adorned with smiles and generosity of heart, infused with hope, they came through the Breakfast Table Cafe doors and mobile cafes in between. The two covered great distances, mother and daughter, care partners and life changers. They ran the race alongside one another, changing pace whenever necessary, all the while cheering on a most precious Jamaican caregiver and her young son — now U.S. citizens — and forevermore a part of their family.

Laura Monroe — lady in purple —your love remains as a footprint in our hearts.

Ode to the caregiver. Your legacy now begins, as fortitude for those of us who run in your footsteps. Lessons you left behind, faith you shone into our hearts, and love you infused into our fiber, all sustenance for this army of care who refuses to surrender. We will keep running alongside others, wildly cheering them on from the sidelines. Your boomerang blessings continue!

In the end, doubts and questions often rise to the surface. Let each one fall as evidence of grace. Compassion is a muscle that must be exercised; it is at the core of letting go. Be tender to thyself; let grief wash over you. Now is the time to fly that surrender flag — for you have fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. Your army of care partners is steadfast.

View Laura’s legacy here.

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