In 2008, approximately one year to the date of my dad’s two liver transplants, acquired brain injury, and slew of chronic health complications, he came home. He had been in three different hospitals in 2007, never expecting to eat, breathe, walk, talk, or know his family again, per his medical providers. So, when he made it home, he was deemed a medical miracle – our Lazarus, as one of his doctors named him.
At the time, I was 25 years old, and I moved back home to help my mom care for him. I was just starting my career as a healthcare professional, and expecting to enjoy the freedom of adulthood after putting so much time into my schooling. As the youngest of six, and after having such a close relationship with both my parents, I believe I was called to care for my dad. The calling did not come without resistance, however, as it was a difficult journey, and certainly one I did not expect would last more than 10 years.
One of the hardest parts about it was that I did not know a single soul who was in a similar situation. I thank God every day for our big and supportive family, because there was no one else we could turn to for support. We only had each other. Due to my dad’s cognitive deficits, he could not understand how much care was provided by my mom and us on a daily basis – the sacrifices we made and the way our lives forever changed.
This proved to be stressful, but also a blessing. Caregiving to my dad was the glue that held us all together, and spending time with him and my family for all of those extra years of his life was the best part about it. Caregiving taught me to appreciate my own independence, gave me gratitude to give back and care for my parents who cared for me all of my life, and to empathize with those who are caregivers today.
Wherever I turn now, someone I know is a caregiver. People’s lives are becoming more socially complicated by caregiving, but they are also becoming more meaningful and transformative, if they can appreciate it more deeply.
I truly believe that if I had not gone through the experience and if I had not answered my calling to return home, I would not be able to appreciate life and love as much as I do now.
Thank you, Dad.
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