Here if you need me


by Mary Beth Sammons

Always looking for “the meaning” of what life presents, I found a great book I would like to recommend to caring for parents, eldercarecaregivers: Here If You Need Me: A True Story (Little, Brown and Company, 2007) by Kate Braestrup.

The theme that I found most useful for caregivers is the idea of “the ministry of presence.” The book is written by Braestrup, who became “an accidental chaplain,” following the death of her husband Drew, a Maine state trooper who died in a car accident. At the time, he was considering a second career as an ordained minister. Instead, the mother of four took up the cause and followed in his footsteps. She became a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service, which sets up search-and-rescue missions throughout the northern state.

It seems obvious that a chaplain would practice this ministry of presence. But, when I think about it, I believe that is largely what caregivers do most of the time. We are present – or try to be – for our aging parents. It is something to think about. When and how are we present for our aging parents? What does that mean?

For me, sometimes it means sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office or testing lab, while my mom is getting an X-ray or an exam. Sometimes, I find creative ways to do that, like walking outside and sitting or taking a walk. Some days being present means lunch, or dinner, or accompanying her to Mass. Others, it involves calling in from the hectic frontlines of my life as “mom” and the craziness of being that when your kids are teens and young adults, and once again, sleep is an interrupted experience. Many times, it is wanting to be present, and torn from that by the obligations of work, home and life. And every day, it is part of my prayer, calling on a higher power to carry us all when I can’t.

So, for all those reasons, I am holding this new inspiration close to my site, offered from Braestrup from her book. It helps me define my role for my mom, and for my children and for friends. “I am here when you freak out, or grieve, or laugh, or suffer, or sing. It is a ministry of presence. It is showing up with a loving heart. And it is really, really cool.” – Kate Braestrup

How do you consider your role as caregiver? What are the moments you feel most present for your parent? Please share them here.