For years I never considered that this label belonged to me. It seemed too formal, to restrictive, too…important for what I did to help my chronically ill mum.
Hugs and housework and understanding.
Surely those didn’t deserve such a label?
Yet when my younger sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I spent every other day at the hospital and I cared for her in many physical ways from feeding to advocating for her with the pain team, I still didn’t feel this label belonged to me.
But I also felt that I needed the help a label brings. Without a label I did not have the words to share my story.
So I created a word. I called myself a Watcher and then I began to wonder if there were any other Watchers out there.
Do you know someone who is struggling with a physical or mental illness? Have you ever stood by someone and felt utterly helpless? Do they have problems that you cannot take away and health concerns you cannot fix?
If so, you are a Watcher. You are most likely also a Caregiver.
You wince as your loved one winces, you cry as they cry, and rejoice as they rejoice, but you cannot even walk a mile in their shoes.
We are the healthy ones. We have the world at our fingertips and often share none of their bodily restraints. Our burden is different. We walk beside them and try to communicate their ups and their downs to the people around us. Often we fail, because sometimes there are simply no words.
It is hard being a Watcher, my friends. It is lonely, because every illness is different. No situation is the same. All of us are Watchers, but all Watch alone.
This is why I started writing. There are two answers to such aloneness. One is community, the other is God.
We all long for someone to stand by our side and grasp our forearm and say with a knowing, quiet voice and full eyes, “I get it. I understand.”
Watching is a journey which goes on and on – and so encouragement is needed for the everyday. It is also a path which begins and ends, and so we need help for those times too.
Watching is also a quest which will at some point encounter God.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I am seeking them as I strive to live in the shadow of the Almighty.
I have no ‘five point plan’ for healing or even for peace, but I do pray my words will help you ponder your life as they have helped me ponder mine – and that your experience will be the richer for it.
I pray they will provide a feeble sense of community and a less feeble sense of God. Like C. S. Lewis wrote in Surprised by Joy, I have only, “… been emboldened to write of it because I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, ‘What! Have you felt that too? I thought I was the only one.’”
Emily works in healthcare and 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 is the author of the website www.calledtowatch.com. As well as uncovering God’s presence in lives filled with disease and disability, she enjoys running, reading, writing fiction and reflecting on life at www.gloryafterwards.wordpress.com.