I was out in my back yard this week trimming Arborvitae back off the fence. I returned at 5:30 the next morning before the heat of the day to pick up the trimmings and load them into my Subaru to take them to the would probably take four trips. I imagine it took me a total of about 3 hours or more to do this.. My Golden Retriever Bentley came out with me and after smelling every corner of the yard checking for the presence of squirrels and rabbits, he stood by the door waiting to go inside. Each time I looked over to check on him, there he stood...patiently waiting to be let into the house. He did not bark or squeal. He just stood silently.
Bentley does this quite often. He will stand by his food bowl or stand staring at me (when I am on my computer). He does not bark. He just stands there until I pay attention to him. I never get the sense that he is in a hurry or frustrated by waiting. He seems calm and quiet. I try to respond in an appropriate period of time. When we walk each day, Bentley stands again as I chat with neighbors. How I admire his patience, something I clearly need to work on.

We live in an impatient society. We do not want to wait for traffic signals; for downloads to our computers; repairs to anything that breaks or even for our own personal growth. Everything must be done quickly now so we multitask to speed things up ultimately making mistakes and creating stress.
When Bill's abilities were deteriorating due to Alzheimer's, I learned a great deal about patience. I remember sitting next to him on the edge of the bed each morning and each evening with his pills in my hand. One by one he was able, early on, to pick one pill from the little dish and take it. Occasionally he would drop it on the floor. We did this several times a day. Helping him to get dressed was a slow process and because he needed to feel some sense of accomplishment, I would wait while he buttoned his shirts or pajamas...often doing this several times before the task was completed correctly. His face would light up as he realized he was still able to accomplish that simple task, one he once did without thought. Each day the tiniest of tasks took longer and longer and ultimately I got the picture. I learned that care giving demands a great deal of patience as well as compassion and gentle love. Helping Bill get into the car to go for a ride; helping him eat; assisting him as he walked from one room to another demanded patience on my part while he seemed to be content with "slow". This in a man who once worked quickly as he repaired broken items or built clocks, while always having loving patience with me or with clients.

Mothers and fathers know about patience as they teach their toddlers how to tie their shoes, put on a pair of pants, eat with a fork or get ready for school.
What we all must learn as we walk our paths is-
patience is not just about waiting but
it is about how we wait.
What we all must learn as we walk our paths is that patience is not just about waiting but it is about how we wait. Do we wait tapping our foot impatiently? Do we speak harshly? Are we calm on the outside but anxious and angry on the inside? If I learned nothing else during Bill's years of struggle (often at his expense as my exhaustion increased) it was priorities and patience. When he died, I was pretty hard on myself for all the times I was not a perfect caregiver. Those feelings still haunt me on a bad day.
You caregivers out there know what I mean. Early into his illness I waited for him calmly and compassionately, spoke tenderly with understanding and empathy as I hugged him or sat with him. I was totally present to the moment knowing it was all that mattered. As my exhaustion increased, patience and love became more challenging until one day, I knew deep in my soul that no matter how tired I was, I needed to chose to care for him with love and patience and the compassion I truly felt.That day was a turning point for me.
Though I did finally learn how to wait for and with Bill even when exhausted from no sleep, I also learned how little patience I have for myself. In these years of grief following Bill's death, I initially had very little patience for the grieving process. I wanted to be, expected to be, further down the road "managing my grief perfectly".  Instead I am still learning to be where I am each day with love and acceptance for myself at a time when I am in deep pain. These years are teaching me to just go with the flow and not to push the river. Many around me may or may not understand that I still have very little reserve and am still worn out from care giving, stressful times, and grief. I have learned that it does not matter what others may think. I will do this journey my way, in my own time and with growing patience for me and for the process of grieving.
If you are struggling with a lack of patience, just stop, take a few breaths and just be. Do this many times a day and aim to do it with compassion and love for yourself. In order to be fully present, we must have great patience and acceptance. There is no other way to live.
As I move into whatever lies ahead with Bentley (recently diagnosed with lymphoma) I will take the lessons I learned with Bill's illness and death with me as Bentley and I walk through yet another chapter that will end with death. I will be patient, kind, compassionate and each time I am, I know Bill is with me smiling down on us.
Related to:  healing, acceptance, grief work, life changes

Looking for Key Ideas on How to Have More Patience 

Caregiver Confessions: When You Lose Your Temper at



Anne Gorman
07/21/2014 1:35pm

Thank you, Mary, for this reminder. Our grief journeys are not something we can snap our fingers and have them all over ~ the journey does take patience and most of us need reminders.

Mary Friedel-Hunt
07/24/2014 8:56am

Thank you, Anne. Yes, patience on our grief journeys is a must and so easy to forget. Thanks for reading my blog.

07/24/2014 10:29am

Dear Mary,
Yes, your eloquent words called forth many, many memories, and most importantly, reminded me that the same loving patience I had with Doug I must now learn to have for myself through this time of grief and healing. I, too, remember the day I sat with myself while caring for Doug, and looked deep inside and knew that the love was there to carry on, even though my body was tired and needed more rest.
Now is the time when we need that patience and lovingkindness for ourselves.
I am thinking of you and Bentley, and holding you in my heart.

Mary Friedel-Hunt
07/24/2014 10:45am

Dear iloilo,
Yes, the memories we have of ourselves as caregivers are powerful teachers...some we are proud of and some...not so much...those are the teachers. As I spend so much time shopping for and preparing food for Bentley, walking him twice to three times a day, interacting with him, etc. I remind myself that if I can feed him well I can feed myself well. If I can walk him and provide for his needs, I can do the same for me. If I honor his fatigue, I can honor mine. Bentley has always been a teacher. Thank you for your kind words.


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