I have often joked that I don’t know whether my mother inspires me or haunts me. During the six-and-half years she cared for my dad following his debilitating stroke, she wrote letters to me in which she expressed everything she was experiencing and exactly how she felt about it.
Mom was hard of hearing and short on money. Long distance calls were expensive at that time, and letter writing gave her a private and safe manner in which to express her feelings and release her emotional stress. It also helped her combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. She told me she liked to write because she could “talk” as long as she wanted without having to witness anyone’s eyes glazing over from boredom.
About five years into her caregiving experience, she wrote and said, “I wish I had been keeping a journal all of these years. I think it would be interesting to see how I have grown and changed mentally and spiritually. I also think my experiences could benefit others who are in a similar situation.”
A few years after Mom died, that paragraph gave me the permission I needed to edit her letters into the book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.”
When I started sharing her stories with small caregiver support groups, people would often comment on how they loved Mom’s unflinching honesty. They would often say , “Madelyn gives me permission to be human.”
A friend recently asked, “Did you ever dream that box of letters would develop into such a big a business?”
Of course not! Starting and growing a caregiver support business was never the goal. There was just so much to say about caregiver anger, guilt, depression and grief, and there were so many people who needed to know the importance of self-care that I just haven’t been able to stop!
After Dad died Mom said, “I would have never dreamed at the beginning that I would have the mental, physical or emotional strength to care for Quentin for more than six years. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But I’m so glad I did it, because if I hadn’t, I would have never had the opportunity to grow and learn so much.”
If you’d like to know more about my mother’s experience and how she has inspired me to develop different ways to provide caregiver inspiration to people just like her, click here to read my article:
How One Woman’s Letters Tell a Remarkable Story of Strength, Courage & Humor