This is the story of the peony (caregiving) and the ant (the caregiver):
The peony flower emerged from its greenery first as a tiny bud and then, slowly, into a magnificent bloom. The ant walked up along the stem of the peony and across the backside of the bloom until it came to the surface of the flower. Diligently making it's way to the center, the ant spent the afternoon busily traversing the surface area focused solely on the bloom's stigma. The ant's field of vision was honed so closely to the center of the flower that it could no longer see the bloom. The ant made the journey each day to the center of the flower and stopped only once the final petals had fallen from the stem back to the Earth at the end of the flower's blooming season. The end.
The explanation: Something about seeing this lone ant on a peony in my garden made me think of my life as a caregiver.
In retrospect, I understand that caregiving was a bloom that lasted for but a season of my life. I was the little worker ant so focused on the center of the experience and the disease process (the stigma, literally and figuratively) that I was unable to see the fuller bloom that I was living within. Day-to-day tasks and worries eclipsed my ability to have a full perspective of how and where I was living. In the midst of caregiving, I could never see the garden around me. I could also not understand how fully caregiving was changing me until after my season as a caregiver had passed. The experience was a rich and lush and organic ever changing moment that was steadily growing and blooming following nature's sole intention of dying. Regardless of how diligently I worked away as the busy little caregiver, nothing would save my flower (my father) from dying.
As you are busily tending to your caregiving tasks, do not forget to acknowledge the garden in which you stand. Caregiving is like a flower whose beauty is designed to fade away petal by petal. Part of the flower's beauty is in its temporary existence. A beauty savored in knowing it is not forever.
You will not be a caregiver forever. This moment of your life will not always be in bloom. That can be good news on the difficult days and difficult news on the good days. Keep your focus on the bigger picture and enjoy the entire garden that you tend and be able to look back on this season with few regrets. In living fully, you will be open to the beauty.