A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I had an easier time taking the lead than I did following someone else’s suggestions. While I hadn’t thought of it this way at first, it turns out that today’s focus falls into the same category, but from a different vantage point.
My father-in-law had a stroke in November, and since he has several other complicating medical issues, his recovery has not been good. He lives about an hour away from us. My wife has been driving down on the weekends to see him, and to help her mom as much as she can. Since I need to stay with the kids, it’s been at least a month since I’ve been able to visit. His condition has been deteriorating, so my wife really wanted me to come with her today for a one-day trip. We debated bringing the kids with us, but decided to get a sitter for the day so we could both be there without being distracted.
In all honesty, there’s really not a lot that anyone can do at this point, except to make him comfortable and let him know he’s loved. And that’s what we tried to do today.
My role in all of this is to be as supportive as I can be to the people who are most effected by his worsening condition. And for me, the key is in understanding what it means to support, instead of trying to step into the lead. In this situation, I’m not going to be able to fix anything. I’m not going to be able to offer any solutions. All I can do is offer support.
Where I had some sort of a breakthrough today, though, I guess, was in realizing that in order to be supportive, I needed to play a supporting role. Whatever was going on in the family, my role was decidedly secondary. Maybe I am stating what is obvious to anyone who is not completely self-centered, but for me it was important to acknowledge. If playing that supporting role means offering an opinion when asked, then I will provide it. If it means listening when my wife needs to talk through her concerns, then I need to listen. Wisdom lies in discerning the difference between the two.
Some of today’s support meant having difficult conversations about my father-in-law’s medical outlook. And some of today’s support meant sitting quietly and holding his hand. Either way, it was helpful for me to remember that compassion does not need to play a lead role to show care and concern to those who are in a time of suffering.