Circles of Care
Yasodhara’s path of accompanying others through illness, aging, and death had particular resonance for me (Janet) when I was the sole family member providing care to my elderly parents. This was particularly through my father’s lung cancer diagnosis and his death at 93 years old. And then my mother’s prolonged aging and finally peaceful death at 101.
As my father died, I made the commitment to him to take care of my mother, one which has graced—and haunted—the last six years. As I look back today, while I am grateful for the love and support in many forms that I have drawn on—one book stand out vividly. It was given to me by my dear friend and meditation Trudy Goodman: Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Elders, by Ann Cason, an inspired Buddhist guide to working with aging elders.
Ann Cason and Victoria Howard created a Home Health Care agency together—Dana Home Health—in Boulder, Colorado in the ‘70s, that was dedicated to helping seniors remain in their own homes. Cason’s many years of experience working with elders and their families are beautifully described—particularly offering the relational practice of creating and nurturing “circles of care” around elders.
This work has provided me with an image that has inspired and sustained my own relational practice with my mother through these years. It helped me to put energy into creating such a circle, and working diligently to care for the circle and tend to the relationships between all who were part of it. Times of burnout, frustration, and interpersonal stress characterized the life of the circle. It greatly helped me to have this creative image of the circle of care to visualize and practice as I lived through this very challenging time. This circle sustained me and came into its full expression and illumination at the time of my mother’s recent death a few months ago.
I had the sense that the light of the circle, which had been cultivated and sustained over seven years, was visible and shining—creating a protective, loving shield around my mother and me over the last days of her life.