Leanne, a good friend of mine, recently started a blog called “Being Sam” based on Sam Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings.” In her blog she explores what it means to be Sam, to walk alongside another, to be “swept up in another’s journey and struggle. The journey is not mainly [Sam’s], but he walks alongside Frodo faithfully and stubbornly.” That’s a perfect description of Leanne. She’s spent her life helping others, as a teacher, as a counselor, as a caregiver, and now in Blue Cord Ministries, a counseling ministry that serves those in the midst or aftermath of cancer.
Last week I watched the last movie in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and after reading Leanne’s blog, I saw Sam in a completely different light. As the two struggled up the final mountain, and Sam said to Frodo I can’t carry your burden for you, but I can carry you, I saw the many caregivers who carry loved ones when they are no longer able to carry themselves. And when Frodo was clinging to the cliff above the fiery river, Sam stretched out his hand and shouted Don’t you let go. How often have we encouraged our loved ones to hang on, to fight their diseases, not to let go.
After the great victory, the miraculous rescue, and the incredible recovery, Frodo and Sam went home. With his new courage, Sam was able to express his love to Rosie. While he married her and got on with his life, Frodo wrote an account of his adventures, but it was obvious that he was no longer at home in the Shire. His encounter with the Ring had left its mark. The physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries he had suffered were too deep to heal.
When Bilbo received an invitation to join the remaining Elves on the last boat to Valinor, all his Hobbit friends set out on a merry journey to see him off. It wasn’t until final boarding that Sam realized Frodo was going, too, that their journey together was over, that Frodo was going where Sam could not follow alongside.
As caregivers, we arrive at that place, too. We come to the point where we can no longer care for our loved ones at home, and we have to give their care over to someone else. Or we come to the point where we stand by their bedside and tell them it is okay to let go, it is okay to go home. At that point we have to release them, we watch them sail away from us, and we go back to the Shire without them. It is time for us to carry our own burden, live our own life, write our own story. It’s time to say good-bye.
I said good-bye to hands-on care of Mom and Dad a year ago, and I said good-bye to Dad in May. I say good-by to a little bit more of Mom every time I see her, but she hasn’t boarded that sailboat yet. Until she does, I’ll continue to walk alongside her when I can and prepare myself for the time when I will tell her it’s okay to let go.