60: Reclaiming Myself

60: Reclaiming Myself

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Reclaiming Myself

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

~Maya Angelou

For nine years, my sister Carla battled ovarian cancer. In some ways, it became my battle as well as I made the trip from my home in Loveland, Colorado to her home in Utah numerous times a year, often staying months at a time.

I was grateful that I had the opportunity to be with her, to support her during the grueling rounds of chemotherapy (twenty-five in all) and the inevitable sickness and weakness that followed.

In the meantime, I put much of my life on hold. I let my writing go. I asked to be released from my positions in our church. Cherished friendships withered from neglect as I focused on helping my sister.

When the disease finally claimed Carla, I was in danger of allowing it to claim me, too. So intense was my grief that I could barely function. In addition, I scarcely knew who I was anymore. So much of my life had revolved around taking care of my sister that I felt I no longer had an identity and feared falling into depression. (I suffer from chemical depression, a disease that runs in my family.)

It was time to take a stand. It was time to take care of myself.

An e-mail message early one morning pulled me from my funk. My friend Janet, the leader of the women’s organization in our church, wanted me to visit a new lady in our congregation with her.

My initial reaction was to say, “No. I’m sorry. I can’t.” I could easily fall back on mourning as an excuse.

With the Lord’s guidance, however, I found myself agreeing.

Janet arrived to pick me up at the appointed time. “I’m so glad you could go today,” she said. “I really needed someone to go with me.”

Someone needed me? It was exactly what I needed.

Together, Janet and I visited the lady, who eagerly welcomed us. She and I discovered we had much in common, including each having an adopted child.

This positive experience prompted me to reach out in other ways. In talking about another lady in the church, Cathy, who lived in a care facility due to the effects of a stroke, Janet expressed her concern that Cathy was lonely, receiving few visitors.

With Janet’s encouragement, I volunteered to go see Cathy.

Her pleasure upon seeing me touched my heart. What I planned as a one-time visit grew to several visits a month. Upon discovering that Cathy had an insatiable sweet tooth, especially for anything chocolate, I made it a point to bring her a treat every time I went to see her.

“I love you, Jane,” Cathy said at the end of one visit and reached out to hug me.

“I love you, too,” I said, returning the hug, and knew that it was true. In serving her, I had learned to love her.

With the help of church leaders, we made plans to record church meetings and take the tapes to Cathy. In looking beyond myself to others who were in need, I became more involved with life and less involved with myself.

With each step, I gained confidence to take another… and another. I picked up my writing once more and began submitting stories. I started my walking and exercise program again.

My grief over my sister’s passing remains, but I am reclaiming myself and, even, to my surprise, thriving, with new purpose and interests.

~Jane McBride Choate

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