My husband had disappeared again. He’d been next to me when I fell asleep. But when insomnia wrestled me from slumber at 2AM he was absent from our bed & our home. Middle of the night disappearing acts had become common place. So I knew immediately where he was.
In the waning weeks of my mother’s life, he developed an empathic sensitivity to her struggles with particularly harrowing bouts of pain. On those nights, he followed a Divine leading to park himself in the Intensive Care Unit--sitting at the foot of her bed to pray, console, and channel loving energy.
He left our bedside, to sit at hers as a physical and proximate embodiment of comfort; a presence so common that night shift nurses knew and welcomed him by name. He was a recurrent early AM visitor to the ICU until my Mom was transferred to hospice in her final days.
Years later he decided to devote time on his off days to visit the wife of a co-worker in hospice care with cancer. When he shared his plans, I shared my well intentioned objections.
He’d never met her. He was just "work friends" with her husband. He didn’t know if she wanted visitors. He DEFINITELY didn’t know if she wanted strangers dropping by to make small talk, as the final grains of sand flowed through the hourglass of her life.
I considered my introverted temperament and how MORTIFIED I’d be if one of his random co-workers dropped by to engage ME in small talk while I languished with a terminal illness.
He listened. He pondered. He disagreed. He followed his intuition. He went anyway.
Turns out, I was wrong!
They were both extroverts. They were both funny. They had common interests. They developed an immediate camaraderie.
His friend was grateful for the willingness to keep his wife company during times when he and his sons were at work or school. The weekly visits continued until her death brought them to a close.
I reflected on both stories today as I pondered how masculine and feminine roles are often socially constructed, and defined.
My husband is a, rugged, sports loving, outdoorsman, with an athletic build, a vibrant sense of humor, a sensitive soul and a caregivers heart.
I’m an intuitive girly girl, who loves jewelry, and make up, and pink frilly things. I also rarely cry, am serious and introspective, have ZERO hospitality skills, and drew the short straw when God was handing out the caregiving gene.
I share all of this to make the same verbal illustration about roles in life, that I made in a prior post about roles in marriage.
A genuine act of caregiving kindness can transform a moment of darkness with a blaze of light. Caregivers often emanate that light. Their concern blooms from the sincere joy of offering care selflessly and without expectations.
How unfortunate it would've been had either of these terminally ill women been denied my husband's caregiving presence because it's not typically seen as a male role or activity.
And what a disaster it would've been for me to force myself into a role with which my heart and inherent nature were NOT aligned because as a woman I’m expected to be naturally more inclined towards caregiving.
I took my daughter to get stitches for a gash in her leg when she was 8. I was so creeped out at the sight of exposed bone that I sat with my back to her to curtail the waves of nausea.
The only comfort I rendered was holding her hand from BEHIND my back, because I couldn’t bear to see the sutures.
I share all of THAT to say THIS:
The world is more blessed by you being a first rate version of yourself, than a second rate version of someone else.
Incessant striving to be someone you are NOT can be a breeding ground for resentment. I know this battle well, from first hand experience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson surmised the end goal this way: “To be yourself, in a world that is constantly trying to get you to be something else, is the GREATEST accomplishment!”
When you TRULY release what others think of you, and FULLY embrace being your authentic self, you reach an amazing level of freedom!