(This is Part 1 of a two-part series focused on “Watching from a distance.”)
What is long-distance watching? Perhaps we have always lived far away from our loved ones and we want to know if we actually are a Watcher. Perhaps we used to co-reside with them but due to circumstances or choice, we have moved a distance away and are struggling. Maybe we’d prefer to live elsewhere and wonder what that will look like, or the opportunity has arisen for us to move closer and we’re not sure whether it will be a wise move.
These questions are difficult and important.
How do we Watch when we live far away from our loved ones? Is it possible?
THE REALITY IS…
First of all, we need to ask ourselves whether it is possible to Watch from a distance. Is Watching limited by geography?
Our definition of Watching is centered around relationship: we are individuals who love someone who is chronically suffering and to Watch is to love.
IS LOVE LIMITED BY LONG-DISTANCE WATCHING?
Is love limited by distance?
A resounding “No!” should be our first response. Yet, distance does shape, mold, and inflame love. At times, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but I suspect in a lot of situations, it does the opposite.
LONG-DISTANCE WATCHING CAN BE DIFFICULT
It’s difficult to maintain a close relationship with friends we don’t see regularly. That’s why our social circles change as we move through life from school to study to work to family and everything in between.
When distance imposes a barrier between us and our loved ones, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions. After all, in this unusual circumstance, we are being given the choice to Watch.
- Is it logistically possible for us to be a close part of their life?
- Do they have other Watchers, people closer to them who love and care for them?
- Is it appropriate for us to step back?
Of course, in many situations, these questions will be inappropriate. Often our loved one is part of our family or a very close friend — and we will continue to Watch. We must do so, and we would not have it any other way. Yet, Watching remotely has its own difficulties.
IN LONG-DISTANCE WATCHING, WE CAN’T PROVIDE PHYSICAL HELP
Where perhaps once we could clean their kitchen, make them a cup of tea, give them a lift, or cook a meal — we now find our hands tied. Parameters beyond our immediate control prevent us from doing what we once could.
For those of us who express love primarily through actions, this is extremely frustrating. It is not merely the gift of service which is denied us — so is physical affection. We can no longer hug, kiss, clap on the back, or sit in silence with our loved ones. Tears cannot mingle over the phone.
This can be excruciating.
If we enjoy giving physical gifts of food or tiny luxuries, this, too, is more difficult. Due to the distance between us, we may not be able to transport perishables or otherwise express our solidarity.
LONG-DISTANCE WATCHING CHANGES THE PARADIGM
What should we do?
We need to accept the inevitable. Watching from a distance changes the paradigm. Things will be different.
We cannot physically help our loved ones anymore, but we can still be a blessing. We can be a sensitive breath of fresh air.
Our situation has changed, but theirs has not and perhaps never will. Our knowledge of the world and our circle of experience and contacts has widened – even if we have only moved half an hour away.
LONG-DISTANCE WATCHERS CAN SHARE STORIES
Our wealth of stories has increased. We have collected new jokes and new outlooks. As we return to our old lives — be it by a phone call or a visit — we take some of our new life with us.
This can be refreshing. It can widen our loved one’s perspectives, provide a gentle distraction, and even help them live life vicariously that they cannot live themselves as they hear about ours.
This is not to say our loved one is a project or someone to be “cultured”. We have simply become the means of something natural and incidental.
The interactions of a different life build up daily experiences. Let’s be aware of this, and the gentle relief it can bring.
WE CAN ALSO REFRESH AND RELIEVE THE CLOSE WATCHERS
This as well requires sensitivity and is more incidental than forced.
Perhaps sickness has narrowed and depressed our loved one’s outlook. Perhaps not. Either way, let us pray God will use our presence to bless them as well.
We may not be able to physically impact their lives on a regular basis — but we can visit. The physical act of traveling, as tiring as it may be, is a gift to them.
LONG-DISTANCE WATCHING MAKES VISITING DIFFICULT
It is difficult to arrange visits. Schedules must be wrangled, money spent, energy summoned — sometimes it might not even seem worth it when we weigh the travel time against time with our loved one.
Yet when we do choose to visit, we bless both our loved ones and ourselves. After all, nothing trumps a real hug.
First published at calledtowatch.com. Published with permission.
Emily J. Maurits
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
After working for several years in the public health sector, Emily is now studying theology. She believes we are all called to love suffering people because that's what Jesus did. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging others to do just that and founded www.calledtowatch.com for the family and friends of those with chronic illnesses. As well as uncovering God's presence in the chaos of life, she enjoys reading, running, and writing. Check out her memoir Two Sisters & a Brain Tumour.
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