For years I have proclaimed and written that special needs moms are superheroes. I have often proclaimed my awe, amazement and admiration for the special needs mom and for caregivers. I have shared my thoughts on my own wife and her days as a caregiver to our own son with profound special needs.
I’ve even referred to my own wife as Wonder Woman.
But I was wrong.
Caregivers are not superheroes.
You see, something happened earlier this year that changed my whole perspective on caregivers.
My wife became my caregiver.
A few months ago I was abruptly diagnosed with chronic end-stage renal disease. Simply put, my kidneys have failed me.
My wife and I had just led a marriage workshop for special needs couples in Atlanta. Two days later I was in the emergency room signing a form allowing for the possible amputation of my foot and being informed I was in renal failure.
Thirty days in the hospital. Five months in a cast. Multiple surgeries. Myriads of doctor’s appointments, tests and evaluations as I try to get on the kidney transplant list.
Oh yeah, she also works full-time in ministry and cares for our own son’s special needs, and his around the clock care.
That’s how I discovered I have been wrong all these years. Completely missed the mark on this one.
Caregivers are not superheroes. Superheroes don’t get weary beyond their breaking point. Superheroes don’t hurt, cry, tremble and struggle to hold it all together. Superheroes don’t cry themselves to sleep at night with a mixture of worry and exhaustion.
But caregivers do. Compassion fatigue is not just real, it’s devastating—emotionally, physically and relationally.
Caregivers are ordinary people who have been thrust into situations requiring extraordinary strength, courage, faith and resiliency. Superheroes don’t rely on the grace of God. Caregivers can’t get by without it.
Caregivers walk with a rare grace, dignity, resolve and determination that separates them from the rest of us.
Calling a caregiver a superhero is a misnomer and mistake. Superheroes should be so strong. Superheroes should admire, respect and look up to caregivers.
And so should you.
They don’t just deserve our appreciation and admiration, but it’s about time we show them how much we respect them and the roles they play.
You have no idea how much a little acknowledgment and encouragement can mean to the struggling caregiver. It may be the one thing that gets them through the day.
Caregivers struggle and are often uncomfortable asking for help. They don’t know how to ask. So why make them ask? Take the initiative and ask them what they need from you. Be engaged.
Not a day should go by without you affirming the caregivers in your life. Not one day. The caregiver in your family should be the most respected member of your family.
There is a really popular advertising campaign going on right now centered around the phrase “I am second.” The implication is to put Christ first in your life. Great idea. Great concept. I love the ads.
But you’re not second.
Serve those who sere others as caregivers. Let your own strength be measured by the depths of your sacrificial service to the caregivers in your life.
If they are laying down their lives for your loved ones, how about laying your own life down for them every once in a while?
Because they’re hurting. They’re struggling. They fight battles every day in their own minds before even getting out of bed. They have rope burns from pulling themselves out of the pit so often.
When you are the one laying in the bed, knowing that you are responsible for their pain, you realize just how broken they are indeed.
They are broken. But they are beautifully broken.
No one gives unconditional love like a caregiver.
And now that I am the one receiving the care, I realize no one understands unconditional love like the one being cared for.
Every time my nonverbal son sees his mom for the first time in the morning, he breaks into the biggest grin.
I get it now.
Don’t insult the caregiver.