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Reform Magazine | August 14, 2022

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On the pilgrim way: ‘I am joining a vast number of carers’

Sheila Maxey recognises her ‘devils’

Kees has had a reprieve: in medical terms he is stable. This means the various support bodies such as District Nurse and Hospice at Home stop calling but say I can call them when needed. As Kees has lost his sense of time this means nothing to him. It is neither a bonus nor a blow.

I have not lost my sense of time: I long for times past and peer anxiously into the future. So I am struggling as I find myself entered, it seems, for a marathon rather than the 200 metres.

The Sunday lectionary tells me I am entering Ordinary Time, that long period from Pentecost and Trinity to when we begin to glimpse Advent on the horizon. No more ‘high days and holidays’, just Jesus’ ordinary life of teaching and healing, challenging and welcoming, and also his weariness and frustration. Perhaps he can help me to find a ‘new ordinary’ in my life now.

Certainly I am joining a vast number of people, often hidden at home, who are caring long-term for a beloved partner or parent or child. A good friend, who has been visiting her husband in hospital daily for six months, would love to be in my position, caring for him at home.

I can now face some things which were on hold: the decorator is coming to repair a landing ceiling, and I am about to sort and store my winter clothes. But cooking is still on hold. There are some new delights: a visit to the garden centre to buy plants and then plant them: popping out to the shops or to Sacred Space while Kees is asleep.

But some of my ordinary ‘devils’ are returning after the strange purity of the past intensely lived months. Jealousy – when visitors have much better lucid conversations with Kees than I seem to have. Guilt – that I hope Kees will be asleep so I can enjoy our visitors to myself. Self-pity.

God does keep sending his angels in the form of visitors to rescue me. They come for coffee or lunch and bring me books, food and above all conversation that takes me out of myself. God also sends me work to do: a service to prepare, this column to write, church secretary business, pastoral emails to write (and to receive) and bills to pay. God even uses WhatsApp, delighting me with photos of one daughter’s cycle to work in the Netherlands, or my other daughter on her silver wedding holiday on St Agnes, or the flowers in a niece’s garden. And as, unlike Kees, I still have my sense of time, I can look forward to one or two little breaks: a June family wedding in the Peak District, a couple of nights in July at the Othona Community.

The liturgical colour for Ordinary Time is green – the colour of life and growth. May a little of the life and growth I see in Jesus’ ordinary life on earth bleed into mine just now.

Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex

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This article was published in the July/August 2022 edition of Reform

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