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Caregivers
Self-Support > Ray

By Tina Fletcher

Editor's Note: I'm honored to share this essay here with our readers. We truly appreciate Tina's willingness to give voice to her own grief path as a caregiver, opening the door for other caregivers to speak up, too. The last line of her essay also raises an awareness of where there are gaps in service and training for caregivers. We must create a better community of care for the caregiver!

There we were, standing with peacock feathers and roses at his grave. My last act as his therapist was to help his mother pull a boulder from my garden and fashion it into a lovely tombstone, simple and spare. Unlike the wonderfully complex young man who lay beneath it.

I never guessed I would clean out his dorm room, erasing all traces of the gentle soul who died when breath failed to stir such heavy sleeping. So quiet that nobody noticed until things emptied out for the holidays.

Eva and I had tended him so long, tag team therapists, taking turns year after year, helping however we could. From crayons to calculators and hopscotch to football, we coaxed and cajoled, explained and prodded, praised and fretted.

He was the first person to see a gray hair on my head, and softened the blow by telling me it was pretty. He fed my chickens and ducks for the simple pleasure of it, and earned pocket change by digging flowers from my garden, the same one that would yield the tombstone. When he left for college, backpack slung awkwardly over both shoulders, shoelaces untied, and jacket askew, Eva and I were the cheerleaders, so proud and relieved. We were sending our special boy off like a mighty warrior. Who knew that on his final journey home he would be so tightly wrapped and packaged that we would never see him again?

His mother and sisters, looking achingly beautiful in their tragedy, hugged and thanked us. We had all done the best we could. It just hadnít been enough to keep this fragile spirit alive.

So, why do I visit his grave so often?
Somehow, I donít remember studying this topic in my textbooks.

About the Author

Tina is a school therapist who worked for ten years with Ray. After reading this essay, Ray's mother shared the Kota Journal with Tina and suggested she send it to us in Ray's honor.
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