Congratulations! You are officially a member of the Apple-Pear-Cheese-Cracker Society! Requirements to join this society are a sense of kindness, urgency, and willingness to focus on others. Most importantly, official members are those who have the heart to provide a little “lift me up” and gift food to a caregiver.
That’s right, today I am going to share with you a story about a dear friend who knew exactly what Dennis and I needed during a time when we were caregivers over seven years ago. If you had asked us what we needed, our answer certainly would not have been, “An apple, pear, cheese, and crackers, please.” Yet we didn’t know what we didn’t know. This is something I think you should know.
Forgive me if I go a little long and deep. Hang in there with me as I share the lesson. Because you never know when – and how often – you may be in the caregiver situation.
Why do we gift food to a caregiver?
We’ve all been there. We hear the prayer request at church, see the GoFundMe on Facebook or a family member call us in the middle of the night. You and the troops rally to provide support, hope, and… food. Casseroles are dropped off, meal trains coordinated, and virtual restaurant gift cards start pinging email inboxes. It’s a beautiful dance amidst temporary – or long-term – chaos.
Food, clothing, and shelter. All basic needs. Clothing and shelter are usually a non-issue for caretakers (unless in cases of fires, tornados, etc.), yet food? Food is always constant. Food is also a stress point in normal life for many people, let alone during trauma. And so, to gift food to a caregiver is perfect. It’s a little something we give so they have one less thing on their mind.
Have you ever wondered, what should I give them? What should I bake? What should I cook? What should I buy? Great questions. But first, let me tell you the story about my dear friend Rachel and how she gave the absolutely right gift at the critical right time.
Rachel changed my mindset forever and I need to share it with you.
Take the coffee date.
This story takes place over seven years ago and the feelings are as strong today as they were then. I had been taking care of my dad as the lung cancer spread through his body, extremely thankful for the guidance from the Circle of Life hospice nurses and social workers. Everything was new and yet I knew that caregiving was a gift. An intensely hard one of course, yet a gift. My friend Rachel kept asking me to slip away and have coffee with her. It seemed impossible. I just wanted to hide and quiet my mind. I really wanted my baggy sweats with the ugly free NFL
Eventually, I said yes and met her at Starbucks on Walton Avenue. She was supportive and somehow knew that I didn’t want to talk about the heavy things. We laughed and talked about, well I don’t even remember. You see, I didn’t want to avoid the heavy. I was IN the heavy. And those around me 24/7 were in the heavy. I needed levity. I needed friendship. I needed caregiving fo
She reached down into her purse and pulled out a crumbled lunch bag and handed it to me.
Inside the bag were one apple, one pear, one little block of cheese, and a small box of crackers.
Keep the food gift simple.
She didn’t apologize for the simplicity, yet she did a little shrug as she gave it to me. She may have even mumbled, “It’s not much,” one more time or two. I thanked her for it and honestly, while I appreciated the bag of goodies, I was more appreciative to her for the coffee date. I thanked her and told her that I was glad I made the time. I told her that I didn’t realize how much I needed it. And then, we went on our way. Her to her life. And me to my life. The one where I didn’t know how long it would be like this.
And the hours ticked on that day as I stayed with my dad making sure he was comfortable and sat in the silence of his home until Dennis joined me, I felt tired. Like, bone tired. Dennis joined me after work, as he always did. We knew the day would end around ten o’clock, or eleven o’clock and we still had hours ahead of us. My dad had pretty much stopped eating by then and all he wanted was quiet. Dennis and were living off of pizza delivery and as the hours ticked by we realized that pizza wasn’t going to be an option that night. But what do you do?
I had one apple, one pear, one little block of cheese, and a small box of crackers.
It was perfect. Rachel knew.
Know what to ask for.
So there’s always more than one story in a story, right? You see, my friend Rachel is a survivor. She had beat Stage 4 cancer herself and been there. Done that. In the seven years since this story, cancer came back and yes, she beat it again. She went through painful stem-cell bone marrow cleaning (something like that). She knew what she and her family had experienced. She knew.
There’s something about going through trials. You learn things. You learn to do things differently next time. You also learn that everyone goes through trials differently yet there are a few things that are universal:
- Keep it simple. If a loved one is a caretaker, don’t make it complicated for them. Questions like, “What do you need? “ can sometimes feel like a mountain.
- Casseroles are wonderful; maybe just break them up into smaller sizes? Freezer and fridge space gets crowded fast. And what if they don’t like
cheesey riceygooey yummy whatever? Then they’ll feel bad that they have a huge pan to go through or feel guilty if they throw it away.
- Disposable containers, please. Keep it simple so they don’t have to figure out a way to get a dish back to you.
- Remember the silent caregivers. A mom with a sick kid/husband/parent is an obvious caregiver. Look beyond to see the rest of the family that is hurting. Brothers/sisters/in-laws. You’d be surprised how much pain and stress they are feeling and are often forgotten. Their lives are impacted, too. We weren’t able to visit with my in-laws during those six months like we/they were used too.
- Speak up if you are a caregiver. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need! I remember craving watermelon while taking care of my dad. I was so sick of pizza delivery and was CRAVING veggies and fruit. Clean food. I should’ve asked someone to bring us some! When my father-in-law was in ICU a few years later, I spoke up whenever someone asked what the family needed. “Please bring us soup, veggies, healthy snacks, bottled sparkling waters.” You’d be surprised how everyone rallied around that simple request. It was truly a gift. Side note, health food stores have immunity shots that excellent gifts for a caregiver. Think outside the box!
Will you join the society?
Whether or not you will ever have to become a caretaker is unknown at this point. However, we all have opportunities to jump in and provide food for a loved one during a hard season in their lives, whether it’s because of illness, divorce, death, or depression. The needs are always there.
I know you have that sense of kindness, urgency, and willingness to focus on others. When you are tapped on the shoulder and you’re on deck to provide a little “lift me up,” remember: you’ve got this. And while there technically isn’t a real apple-pear-cheese-cracker society, there is one in our hearts when we do the right – and hard – things.
Thank you for your heart.
PS // If you know someone who could use this information, please share this link with them. Thank you!