When my editor appeared today for our appointment to discuss the initial LoveCare pilot course, he appeared to be slightly off balance. As we spoke I could see the difficulty he was having concentrating, complaining several times he was having a “brain freeze.” He’d lost the original manuscript a few days earlier with all the work that he had done thus far. He couldn’t give me his schedule or commit to future deadlines, grappling to appear as normal as possible even though things were far from it, as I soon discovered.

He was experiencing the shocking after-effects of hearing that his mother, who lived in Iowa, had fallen. This is not an atypical reaction when a loved one is in trouble. He was waiting for a phone call as we sat strategizing and planning how to configure the LoveCare educational materials meant to help those facing the exact circumstances he himself was going through at that very moment. This emotional reaction is one of the key elements that keep us from being able to function optimally when we find ourselves on the brink of a major life shift like this—the parent-child role reversal.

In one moment, we’re thrust into a myriad of complicated decisions, and we have no idea what the consequences may be unless we’ve planned in advance. Once a loved one has fallen, we must fast-track  decisions that ideally would have been made after two to three days of extensive thought and consultation. These decisions impact everyone involved.

The brain freeze is not uncommon. The problem is we somehow have to make these decisions in a time of crisis, with a clear head. His love for his mother was obvious. Maintaining an objective distance was not an option. He was “in it” as they say and trying to function normally, but barely keeping his head above water.

He’s a writer himself, but in that moment during our meeting, he was just another caregiver afraid of what he was going to hear on the other end of the phone sometime that day.

No matter who we are, when the alarming and disarming process of age begins to show in those we love, in those who know us best, in those who have in large part defined who we are…it’s devastating. Functioning normally becomes a distant second priority to the concern we have for the looming outcome that could change things forever.

We aren’t who we thought we were when tragedy strikes. Titans of industry, math wizards, internet giants…not hardly. We are the children of those we hold dearest—the children of those who gave us life, hope for the future and the means by which to realize our life-long dreams. They didn’t do it for money. In fact they may be the only people we ever know in our lifetime who aren’t motivated either directly or indirectly by money or what we can do for them.

How do we replace that? Can we replace them?

No. We can’t!

In fact, I believe it’s this sobering realization that puts us into a tailspin, a shock that wakes us up to how we live and how we might add value that isn’t measured by money alone.

Who are we without the people who recognize our value beyond what we do or what we’ve accomplished? Where do we turn now in our mind and heart for that unconditional love?

Love is immeasurable and incapacitating and not always romantic.

However, functioning optimally is how we love them back when they need us. We can’t think straight or make decisions carefully in this extended state of shock that traps us in the past.

It’s ironic that the very person I’m counting on to make LoveCare available to those shaken by unforeseen family circumstances is himself incapacitated by his fallen mother. My motivation for doing what I am doing is unfolding right in front of me.

It’s a vivid reminder that we all need a plan. No one is immune to tragedy! No matter how smart you are, no matter how rich you are, no matter WHO you are…plan and do it NOW!

 

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