When a couple gets engaged, their world changes. As the two move towards becoming one, families are blended, bridal registries are established and showers are planned. It’s what we do. The gifts start coming and soon the couple is inundated with cookware, china, silver, household appliances, furniture, frames, bedding, his and her robes, cookbooks, luggage and personalized gifts.
When a woman learns that she is pregnant, everything turns upside down for this new little life growing inside of her. Baby showers are planned and soon the mother-to-be has more than she realized she needed. It’s what we do. We celebrate a new life before it arrives and bless the expectant mother with baby bottles, onesies, shampoo, lotion, outfits, booties, diapers, a noise machine, a car seat, a highchair, stroller, a crib, bumper pads, pacifiers, toys, blankets, burp cloths, a diaper genie, a baby car seat mirror, sippy cups, teething rings, a rocking chair and a diaper bag.
When a loved one gets a new place to hang their hat, we celebrate with a housewarming. The new homeowner registers for gifts and we happily oblige because that’s what we do. My grandmother’s generation would bless new neighbors with a “pounding”. They would arrive at the new home with a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, a pound of anything they thought would help, and soon the kitchen cabinets were full.
We celebrate weddings, babies, new homes and new neighbors. We don’t just do this for the party. We do it to bless people.
But what about life events that aren’t so happy ~ that are just as life-changing but ones we would never celebrate? We don’t hold parties for a cancer diagnosis; instead, we celebrate recoveries. But when a loved one experiences an unhappy, sometimes traumatic life event, they are just as much, if not more, in need of blessing than a new baby, union or home.
We already understand this on some level. When someone close to us dies, we don’t just attend the funeral or memorial service. We bring a casserole or dessert to the grieving family so they don’t have to cook. When a friend is recuperating from a serious surgery, we rotate with meals, pay for them to have their house cleaned or volunteer to run errands for them.
What if we treated serious illness the same way? What if we had gift registries for families who just received a horrible diagnosis?
I’m not saying we should throw a party to celebrate our neighbor’s stage 4 pancreatic cancer or our aunt’s newly diagnosed brain tumor. I am saying we should find out their needs and then bless them.
We need to have ‘life parties’. I know you’re going through a very difficult time right now and you probably don’t even feel like communicating, but I am here to bless you with things you might need and let you know that your life is worth celebrating. Not because it’s almost over but simply because it’s your life.
So how would this work?
Well, there are hundreds of thousands of survivors out there. You may be one of them. They know what helped them through the tough times and what meant the most to them during their crisis. But even if your friend doesn’t know what they might need, there are scores of organizations out there that can point you in the right direction.
For example, someone you know was just diagnosed with dementia. You aren’t sure what kind it is, how severe it is or even how the person is handling it. Since you aren’t close enough to them to ask, you contact the Alzheimer’s Association to find out basic needs. You and your friends put together a care package with items such as Depends, under pads for the bed, a bed alarm, special locks for their doors, a guide book for the caregiver, a no-spill tumbler, premoistened washcloths, superior carpet stain remover, charcoal odor alleviating bags, a GPS tracking system, handle bars for the shower, a shower stool, a spa gift certificate for the caregiver or a pill organizer. Include gift receipts for everything and a card that says something like, “I know you’re going through a difficult time. You may not need these things right now, but you might need them down the road. I want you to know how much I care about you and want to support you during this time. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
Is there a chance that the recipient might not welcome the care package? Sure. This can be a delicate situation. If someone had walked up to me nine years ago and given me a pack of Depends, I would have politely received the gift and hidden it back in the bathroom closet, not wanting to think about the day my Father would need them. But then in 2017 when Dad began having toileting issues, I would have pulled out that package and been grateful for the friend who thought enough of me and my Father to give it to us. Everybody is different. Some people are super private and don’t want to divulge information about their loved one’s disease. And that’s fine. The care package doesn’t have to be related to their illness. You can give them a gift certificate, a motivational book, music, jewelry, chocolate – anything they might like to let them know you are thinking of them and you’re there to help.
People are worth celebrating. Not just during the happy, life-changing events but during the difficult times. And when someone gets a horrible diagnosis or goes through something traumatic, it becomes immediately clear just how precious life is and how much celebrating we still need to do. We need to bless each other in both the good times and the bad.