About nine years ago, Ron Katz and I were standing in front of a local craftsman viewing matching wedding rings. Each type of ring had a name, and the ring we particularly liked was called “Ebb and Flow,” named for the tiny scalloped grooves around the circumference of the ring. Not only did the appearance of the ring appeal to us but so did the name. We were in our fifties at the time, and each of us was keenly aware of the ebb and flow of life, as well as the undeniable ebb and flow within relationships.
We have worn those rings for nearly nine years now, and certainly during that time, we have experienced the flow of life, those moments that call for quiet gratitude or festive celebration. We have also witnessed the ebbs with illnesses and deaths of friends and family members and even the everyday stresses of life. However, no ebb of life had quite affected me as the news that my husband, Ron, needed major back surgery. My heart hurt as I witnessed his pre-surgery pain along with the search for a diagnosis, but nothing quite compared to the concern and apprehension I felt as the surgery date drew nearer. I knew we were on this healing journey together, but was I up to the task?
My background as an educator has been all about nurturing minds. I took care of my children when they were small, nursing them during the typical childhood illnesses. But this seemed quite a step above anything I had ever done. Add to that the fact that I am extremely squeamish about anything medically related. I wanted to give my beloved husband the best care possible, but I needed some encouragement and some simple guidelines that would see me through my end of the journey. Here’s a sample of the bits of wisdom and encouragement I received during those pre-surgery days:
- Caregiving is not only about changing bandages. It’s about giving part of yourself.
- From author Richard Rohr—“We can only give away who we are.”
- Look forward to the recovery period when you and Ron will have lots of time to spend together—talking and getting to know each other even better.
- As soon as Ron is able, go get ice cream.
- Don’t live through this experience twice by worrying and thinking about it so much ahead of time. Take each moment as it comes even if some of those moments are difficult.
- One of the silver linings in this experience is that you get lots of chances to practice mindfulness.
- Breathe deeply.
- From many friends, family members, and even acquaintances through both words and deeds: “I am here to help you.” “You can count on me.” “Call me anytime.”
So, have Ron and I made it through this particular ebb of life? Yes, I believe we have; the roughest parts seem to be behind us. But most importantly, I have found during this experience that there is plenty of flow right there in the midst of the ebbs if we just look for it.