Life brings opportunity to be cared for and to care

There is a lot going on in this experience we call Life. Some is more or less predictable: sunrise, sunset and changing seasons.

Often we can anticipate and make plans, like for schooling, marriage, savings accounts, or the next event. Some things just happen when they happen — for good or ill — a pleasant encounter at the store, a broken bone or relationship, delicious hot soup on a cold day, that nasty cough that lingers, the giggle of children at play, the death of a loved one.

I believe in all aspects of life there are opportunities to care and be cared for. In fact, knowing of several life stages helps us make the most of our caring.

With some exceptions, much of our time on Earth is lived in the routines, moving back and forth between relative stability and occasional compromises (from skinned knees to bruised egos) to that constancy. Our work, study, play, worship, plans and events — our calendar and checkbook tell the tale of our routines and compromises, and how we engaged them year in and year out. Care giving here happens among equals: friends, family, neighbors, congregants, and mates of various types.

Sometimes, the compromise is serious enough that it becomes a crisis, whether of a medical, psychological, relational or societal nature.

In stressed times, the challenge is to recover from the crisis in hopes of returning to the routines. Movement between crisis and recovery reoccurs more often with some and less with others. Care giving here often happens with professionals in medical settings, legal/detention settings, counselor offices, or support groups.

Over time, the crises that affect our lives might become serious or prolonged enough that they cause a noticeable decline.

Advanced illness, weakening, slowing, and fading from social participation are evidence of life becoming more fragile with markedly less vitality or resilience. The challenge is to manage as well as possible as our frailty increases slowly or quickly, regardless of age. Care giving here often happens with personal or professional support and fellowship, offered through congregational and community programs, specialized services and facilities, and increased involvement by family and friends.

At some point, barring a catastrophic incident or accident, one’s decline may be described as irreversible. In railroad language, the station is near, the journey almost complete upon arrival at the “terminal.” The challenge now is to find a sense of being at peace and in love.

In addition, the “work of dying” includes releasing, accepting, blessing and trusting — in the deepest sense of the words — and all involving the person’s people. Care giving here happens too often in clinical settings and not enough in home settings, where this unique work is best done, often with hospice help. In general, the more honest love and peace that is shared, the better the grieving of those who survive.

Whether your stage in life is routine, stressed, frail or terminal, may you be blessed with caring. May you be blessed with enough love and peace to float your boat over the rapids and the still waters of life until you arrive safely in your home port.