Last month I wrote about "ahh babies," which is my euphemism for the particular kind of nurturing care needed when we are feeling sick or recovering from an injury–the ideal expression of comfort and compassion in whatever form you would want and need.
Regardless of age, ahh babies goes a long way to helping us feel loved and cared for. There are even scientific studies demonstrating improved healing for patients who have support systems in their lives when they are recovering from an illness.
Having said that, caregiver burnout is an epidemic, so it is also important for all caregivers (professional, friend or family) to take care of themselves, to set aside time and resources to rest and replenish.
I was especially reminded of the importance of ahh babies this past weekend. My "baby brother" (who is now a middle-aged adult and father of three children) got sick while traveling home from a business trip on the other side of the world and ended up in San Francisco for a few days. I stocked up on saltines and made a pot of chicken soup; we watched some bad tv and talked about the meaning of life. It was actually a pleasure to be able to lean back into our long ago-established roles as big sister and little brother, even after so many decades and life changes.
It doesn't really matter how old you are, or whether your support person is actually a family member, or a friend, or someone in your community, or even someone you don't know well. It might even be your beloved pet shnuggling with you when you are feeling low or ill. Someone with whom you can simply be, without apology or defensiveness or feeling like you owe them anything more than simple, uncomplicated gratitude.
You are not a burden; nor are you sacrificing your independence by allowing others to provide support and caring.
I blogged a few months back about reciprocity, and I fully believe that reciprocity and caregiving are a natural karmic marriage.
This week I will be teaching a class on spiritual self-care for seminary students, and I look forward to sharing some nourishing resources with them, as well as hearing about their needs and experiences as they prepare for ministry.
Mi Sheberakh is a prayer for physical and spiritual healing; it is one of the central Jewish prayers for those who are ill, recovering from injury or illness, and their caregivers. Mi Sheberakh literally means means "May the One Who Blesses;" this prayer specifically names our ancestors and asks for "spiritual healing, blessing, compassion, restoration, and strength, within the community of others
facing illness as well as all Jews, all human beings."
photo courtesy of JLR
Although traditionally recited in synagogue, the Mi Sheberakh is now often recited at other times during the course of illness or recovery. There is a particularly beautiful version of the Mi Sheberakh prayer from the National Center for Jewish Healing that blesses caregivers, and ends with the following stanza:
Help her/him to accompany me
throughout my journey-
to speak with me,
to listen to me,
to be with me
so that together we may strive
for a complete healing,
a healing of body and a healing of spirit,
soon, speedily, without delay,
and let us say,