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Rise like the day

Bath, England, 2010 Photo by Brenda L. BeckerSomeone shared a music video of a magnificent singer named Andra Day, singing a beautiful song, "Rise Up." The video (below), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, unleashed a flood tide inside me, with its tender, spare depiction of a couple in love, one of whom is physically dependent utterly on the other.

You're broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry-go-round
And you can't find the fighter

I've done my years as a caregiver--I know just where to reach for the brakes on a wheelchair, the safety belt in the back of an ambulance. I have "hacks" for full assisted transfers, bed shampoos, bedsore prevention. I've said a thousand versions of this, in nursing homes, ICUs, my mother's bedroom: 

But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains

But now, in a heart-aching rush, so many people I love have been called upon to move mountains.

My beloved cousin, an irrepressible paraplegic, just marked a year since he fell from his wheelchair, sustaining a fresh injury that will not heal. His beautiful wife, an effervescent woman with a core of steel, manages his overwhelming medical and logistical needs (with help from their grown daughters) while never losing sight of the man she loves--a doctor, a gentleman farmer, an advocate for the disabled. This year, when he finally returned to their Michigan home, they created a new garden he could see from his window.

And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid

My old friend and colleague, a creative and brilliant medical writer, is on an epic journey with his wife, a mother and artist, as they battle her breast cancer together. With her fury and courage, and his agile mind and deep clinical knowledge, they continue to navigate through a labyrinth of oncologists, tests, treatments, seeking hope, and most of all, seeking compassion.

All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other 

My two dear friends from church, who finally married when the law recognized their longtime love, now hold one another's hands in the coronary care unit of a Brooklyn hospital. They are adorable--a Tall Guy and a Short Guy, both theater-world veterans and devout Catholics. It was years ago, watching Tall Guy push Short Guy's wheelchair home from church, that I truly recognized the sacramentality of marriage beyond its traditional bounds--"an outward sign signifying God's grace." Now Tall Guy strokes his husband's silver hair when the pain and fear grow too much. "What do you see?" Short Guy asked him this week, terror in his eyes--the terror of vanishing, a look I know all too well. "I see the person I love," his love replied.

When the silence isn't quiet
And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we'll take the world to its feet
And move mountains

And now, my BFF, my best friend forever. Her love, too, is at her bedside night and day. Working the system. Making the nurse come faster. Adjusting the pillows and covers, the piece of the world she currently rules. Strategizing for discharge, rolling with the punches, and hoping for hope. Leaning over and seeing the person he loves, assuring her she is not, as she fears, disappearing from anything resembling the life she has known.

I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again

And there we have the genius of this song. Whether the songwriters knew it or not, with this lyric they reach in and recognize the heart and soul of the caregiver journey.

The ache. In spite of the ache. A thousand times again. Where does it come from, that rising, every day? What refills the well a thousand times? It isn't just a well, if you're lucky, or blessed. It is a spring. A wellspring, for the well and the sick. It rises not from one of you but from both. Love dissolves your boundaries. You go past the place where the chattering advice absurdly says "Take time for yourself. Get a massage. Have a manicure. Relax over a special cup of coffee. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, ha ha."

We once had a crazy old pastor--seriously, mad as a bat out of hell--who wagged a finger and told the congregation, "There are no coffee breaks on the Cross."

The caregiver journey goes past the Oprah-esque, treat-yourself-to-a-cappuccino stage at some point right to the foot of the Cross. "Me before you" or "you before me" ceases to be an issue; they are what Richard Rohr calls "false dualities." Things can actually seem lighter then, in a way. Light enough to rise.

I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
For you

"Rise Up" Written by Cassandra Monique Batie, Jennifer Decilveo • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 12:03PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments1 Comment

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November 2, 2016 at 02:48AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren C Appleberry

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