TO SUPPORT AND CELEBRATE FAMILY CAREGIVERS
by Barbara Gaughen-Muller
Be a rock against sadness,
pessimism and hopelessness
Switch on and keep on in yourself
the cheerful buttons,
those marked joy, laughter, happiness, love
passion for life,
gratitude for life
Whistle, sing and smile at life…
If Robert only knew when he wrote those words that they would be my mantra as his caregiver. I began to think back to all the times a smile rescued me from some pretty difficult times with my late husband. He would often ask if I was his wife. I would smile and answer, “yes.” At least 5 times a day, he would not remember where he was, but I would always tell him with a smile. He always smiled right back at me and—for a moment—we were fine.
My smile was my miracle companion during the last years of Robert’s precious life. A kind look, a gentle word, and a smile ac- complished miracles and even lifted my mood. I often recalled how happiness had saved Robert’s life as he was about to be arrested by the Gestapo. I would reread his chapter from Most of All They Taught Me Happiness.
A smile is the language of kindness, your expression to the other person that they are important and loved. It is also transforming and empowering for you, the caregiver. When the going got rough, I would smile even when no one was around. My smile saved me and brought a sense of the joy that made me feel like I could go on.
During a recent talk, I told the new graduates of the Care-givers Companion Course, “If you remember one thing, as a caregiver, remember to smile.” It will not only keep you strong, but empower you to handle whatever tasks or people you have to work with.
My husband’s poem, Decide to be Cheerful, was kept on his night- stand to remind me to “Whistle, sing and smile at life.”