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The Gift of Caregiving

unwrapping gift with red bow
Alhamdulillah! That's so beautiful that you're caring for your mom! Allah chose you! That's such a gift! Allah didn't choose me for my mom. He chose my sister maa shaa Allah. This is your way to Jannah!

These are the words that a dear sister spoke to me when I shared with her that my mom is under my constant care now. And I have to admit, I was surprised by her complete delight at my situation, and her sadness at not being in a similar situation. "Allah chose you," she said. It washed over me like a healing.

Perspective is key, how we look at the trials and situations that occur in our lives. So many times in my life I've had to search my mind and heart for a better perspective, a way of looking at my circumstances in a light that is empowering for me instead of defeating. Sometimes it has truly been hard; but thankfully, not this time.

I was surprised by the sister's joyful exclamation because I felt the same way...eventually. It wasn't that I'd ever felt bad about caring for my mom, or unwilling. I actually didn't think about it at all. I just went about doing what I knew was necessary bi'ithnillah, and eventually I was the last one standing. I was chosen.

In the beginning, there was shock, disbelief, and resentment in my heart at those who chose to be absent. How could they?? After all she's done for them, I'd hiss. But all that did was burn me out emotionally. I had to start being present with who and what was still in my life, our lives now... Me and my mom. I had to be grateful for my family, my friends, and my situation that allowed me to be for my mother what she had prayed so hard for over the years, a safe and peaceful place to grow older with people who love her.

Gratitude comes from acknowledgment. I knew that Allah azza wa jal was in control, as always. But I had to acknowledge His favor upon me, my life, my family...all of the ways that He ta'ala had so perfectly orchestrated my life, and the people in it, so that in the moment my mom needed me, I could be there. Fascinating! Allahu akbar! I couldn't have set such a plan into action if I had a lifetime to think about it. The plans were laid so long ago, before any of us knew. And I'm awed by the sheer magnitude of the project and how perfectly it came to pass.

Is it hard? Yes! I'd be lying if I said it's a cakewalk. The sweetness of the journey is in the perspective that Allah has allowed me to have. Like I said, sometimes I have to search myself for that perspective. Not because my mother is difficult alhamdulillah. She's a beautiful woman with patience beyond measure, patience that far surpasses mine. She's a caregiver who selflessly spent her prime years, and mine, solely caring for her mother and aunties. She knows this journey, so she does what she can to make it light for me alhamdulillah. But it's still hard.

For instance, just yesterday, I was tasked with doing something for her, myself, and the entire household at one time...literally. I needed to break my fast and pray, the food needed just a couple more minutes to cook, and my mom needed me immediately. Perhaps it doesn't sound as chaotic as it was, at least in my head, but it was indeed a very chaotic moment. But alhamdulillah we got through it, the food wasn't totally ruined, and I fulfilled my obligations.

What about her though? My mom. What was it like for her in that moment, innocently and perhaps begrudgingly needing my help? Having to ask someone, the child she raised, to do something for her that until recently she'd been able to do for herself a million times? How did she process that exchange, seeing me momentarily frazzled, trying to decide what should wait and for how long. The look in her eyes told me she felt guilt. And I was crushed.

She tells me all the time that she's blessed to have me. Her friends tell her that also, she says. That idea seems strange to me, considering I've been on the receiving end since my creation began. I still am. She's always giving something to someone, to me. She's a giver. A giver who, for the first time as an adult, has to rely on someone else for her daily needs. And so she looks to me with expectation, and also gratitude. And I, in turn, do the same. She is a gift to me, a trust from my Lord azza wa jal. And I pray that I can measure up, keep juggling the balls while rocking the cradle with one foot so to speak.

But Allah chose me. So I know that no matter what, we will be okay.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Allah says, 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he remembers me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself. And if he remembers me in a group of people, I remember him in a group of people that is better than they. And if he comes one span nearer to me, I go one cubit nearer to him. And if he comes one cubit nearer to me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him. And if he comes to me walking, I go to him running.' "

This has always melted my heart, the truth of it being played out in my life so many times alhamdulillah. So we will be okay, mom and I, bi'ithnillah. As long as we remember that what we have in each other is truly a gift from Allah, and that the gift comes not only with the great thing you cherish and hold dear (the actual gift -- or Jannah), but with insignificant things you deal with and then move past (boxes, tissue paper -- or trials).

Whether you are caring for a parent, your auntie, a special child, or a dear friend, it's always about perspective. Changing our perspective can be freeing. It can relieve stress and help us to find or create joy in our present circumstances and in every day. Often we are told that keeping a gratitude journal can be life-changing, and this is true. But what was life-changing for me was not only to know what I'm grateful for, but why I'm grateful for it. It's the why that fine-tunes our gratitude. What are you grateful for? And why?

Here's to the beginning of our journey together. There will be ups, downs, lessons, and moments of clarify between us insha Allah. And may Allah azza wa jal make it all a benefit for us and the loved ones we care for. Ameen 🌹

Your sister in deen and duty,


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