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A number of comments lately have mentioned or alluded to the hope of gaining something spiritually from the experience of caregiving. That idea always resonates with me, and I'd like to explore it a little more.

I've been a caregiver in a number of different situations - for a lover, two close friends, two siblings, and a parent. I have found deep satisfaction in all of those situations, EXCEPT for the most part in caring for my mother.

I think for many people, illness and dependency strips away artifice, and allow a person to allow himself/herself to be unusually vulnerable. For the caregiver, it allows you to connect very deeply with the person, to tend to their needs, shield their vulnerabilities, and soothe their pain and their fear. Being chosen by someone when they're most vulnerable and in need feels like a great honor, and being with them in their time of need feels like an amazing privilege. I cherish the memories I have, of a dear friend allowing me to shower her when she was disabled after surgery on her shoulder, of my sister calling me with the flu and saying right out "I need help. Will you help me?" I remember washing another friend's hair in her hospital bed when she was laid up from surgery. These are not interactions that we normally don't experience in everyday life, and they're very special.

Then there's my mother. I find it impossible to get much satisfaction out of helping her, and I think it's because of her overwhelming sense of entitlement and her need to control everything. I don't think she lets herself be vulnerable except as a manipulation, when she can't get away with outright demanding something. I think she can't stand to think of herself as needy (or think of anyone else as having any autonomy or choice), so she presents her needs as demands and expectation, and it's impossible to feel good about meeting them.

I keep thinking back to something the author M. Scott Peck said, about how love is the willingness to extend oneself for one's own or another person's spiritual growth. He also said that a loving person must be careful not to waste their love on those who are capable of benefitting spiritually. That's the situation I feel I'm in with my mother - wasting my love on someone who is incapable of benefitting spiritually. I can satisfy her material needs, but that doesn't satisfy me in any way. I want that deep closeness, that connection, and I think it's like electricity. Unless there's a complete circuit, it won't flow at all. That's my love for my mother, stopped at the source.

Sorry for the rambling. Maybe enough to spur others of you to share your thoughts?

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There's also a huge difference between momentary helping and someone borrowing your life for many years. After so many years and total loss of my old life, I have no idea what I'm going to do when my mother dies... if I don't die first. It's starting to look like that is a possibility. At 90, she's as strong as I am at almost-65.
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Donna, no need to apologize. All are free to rant to their heart's content on this and any other thread as far as I'm concerned. I actually couldn't figure out who or what your post was directed to, but never mind. Feel free to write whatever is true for you; the rest of us will deal with it.
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Veronica, I too like what you said about letting others help. I'm one of those who is constantly looking for people to help when I'm out and about my day. People who can't reach the high shelves (I'm tall), kids and dogs who appear lost, old people who look lonely, cashiers who appear overworked and harried, other drivers desperately trying to enter the flow of traffic where nobody will let them in.

There is something about using your own agency to bring a little good into the world, that is lost when your services are expected and demanded. It is my mother's denial of my agency, rather than her lack of appreciation, that makes it so difficult to do for her, and so unpleasant. It's her "I need to stop at the liquor store." rather than "Would you mind stopping at the liquor store?" that makes helping her a totally different (and noxious) experience for me.
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Veronica, what you said about letting others help is so true. I'm a very independent person and my first impulse is to say that I don't need help. But I know that other people need to help others. So I accept the help and say thank you so much. It is a two-way thing. I also enjoy helping others and feel chastised when they won't let me. I know other people are like that, too.
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Somehow I missed this thread but it has given me a lot offend for thought.
I was spared the task of having to care for either of my parents. My mother once said to me "your will be sorry when I am gone" Well I was not and almost 40 yrs later I am still not.
Spirituality religious or not is still a mystery. To me I was able to connect to some people who were dying but not others. It was like the electricity that someone mentioned.
I hate to say this but some of the ministers who visited at or before the death did not seem to be very spiritual. Several seemed just to be there to make the sure the memorial donations were all directed towards their ministries even though the patient may have other wishes.
Since I was become less able to care for myself I have been astonished and very grateful for the care of strangers. Those that open doors, offer to carry groceries or reach items on high shelves. I have always been very independent and try to tackle things for myself so it is hard to accept this help but always make the effort to smile and say 'thank you" There really are lots of good people in this world.
Spirtiuality comes from within as does love, neither can be faked. It is still possible to respect the elders and take good care but it is important to respect our true feelings.
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I'm sorry about the narcissist rant...
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The very next day of my post, after being in the ER with Mom the Thursday 12-30-16, I slept overnight on Mom's couch to make sure she was alright. The next day I made her breakfast, and we went grocery shopping to our favorite place: Trader Joe's, then lunch out. We got to her home around 3:30. I hugged her and kissed her goodbye and went off to my place to pack. Tried to call her but there was no answer. Well, she's recovered and busy, I bet. I went to Maine. Tried to call her, no answer. Turns out Mom died that Friday night in her sleep, in her bed with her new bedspread, all cuddled up with a smile on her face. The managers from the Indep Living place found her on Monday.

God had listened to my pleas in every way. I begged that she passes on in her sleep without pain or struggle. She did. I didn't want to be there. I wasn't. I was with two best friends in Maine. As soon as my sister called I let out a wail of sorrow, shock, and pain, but I also felt God's presence in the two friends who stood there, outside giving me long tender hugs. One was going to leave from our visit and I was praying he'd stay a day longer. His car had a problem and he had to get it fixed and had to stay a day longer. It just happens it happens just so God's handwriting was all over it embellished with his smile and the peace Mom and I felt inside.

Now it's just about a week later. I am rapidly returning to my happy self. I did the best I could. Mom was the best she could be. And the service the Indep Living place gave was amazing. I orchestrated it with the two weeping managers who adored my mother. I bought a bright variety of flowers and colors and we put little stages of things about my Mom. Over 50 residents and other locals came and all were weeping and storytelling, hugging and sharing how my mother made them laugh, touched their hearts, inspired them, amazed them with her feisty, funny, annoying, aggressively friendly, no boundaries manners! It was a most healing time! Only two local cousins of mine, on my father's side of the family, attended. My brother didn't think it was worth coming to! My sister is in Fl.
My Dad is tottering in a home in CT with Dementia.

I have survived the caregiving roller coaster ride after all, with my love for my mother intact underneath all the turmoil that churned up in me. God lifted us both up.
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I don't know who the narcissist is in your comment. But, caring for your parent is tough. Emotionally you are scared and worried, physically it is exhausting and dealing with another persons business can be frustrating.
I am aware that my comments: monster, mean, difficult and not loving are negative; but my siblings would verify that. I love my Mom inspite of those things. She was the youngest of 9 children, I'm the oldest of 5...
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There is a spiritual significance to care giving. I think one has to be able to be selfless and humble and spiritual to be a caregiver. It is a difficult role and even more so with a naricissist.

There is a spirtiual aspect in life, period. At some point in my life i began to feel that my mother was possessed by a demon. It was because I could not phanthom a mother doing the things she was doing to me over and over. These things and feelings bought me closer to God. And being closer to God makes me able and is my refuge when she does the same old ugly thing in different ways now.

The spiritual part is also accepting that i can't change that ugliness, that its been there and aint going nowhere so why fool myself. I just get frustrated when I get stupid enough to think there is an inkling of reasoning when there never has been any in past.

The spiritual part also keeps me loving the sometimes monster that is my mother. Lets me stand my self for putting up with it for a lifetime, otherwise I would be crazy as a "bedbug".

It also gives me hope that my life will get better and gives me strength to keep trying to do this job well and when its all done that I can rest in peace.
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Donna, my mother has been pleasant lately after years of being mean and self-centered. It is a bit disarming, since I still feel angry at her. But what do I say? I am angry with her for being so nice? I am wanting to ask her who she is and what did she do with my mother.

Strangely enough, she has also had better reasoning and memory. This has been going on for a few weeks, so I don't know what to think. This time last year I thought her time left on earth was getting short. Now I wonder if she'll live a lot longer.
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I've just read your post and I found this site when I felt torn also. It's been about 5 months or so and thru the meaness, manipulation and her illness... I've felt everything from anger to desperation. Now it looks like she's giving up and I can't bear it, she sees it in my face and instead of telling people things like "I'm mean" or making up terrible stories or manipulating me, she is telling people she worried about me.
I saw my Mom as a monster, she put me thru the ringer, you can check my post; BUT I am thinking that like a child who misbehaves or acts out, that was my Mom's way of getting help or attention. She didn't know what was wrong with her (before test & UTI)....
It's just tough, very few moments that feel spiritual.

My advice don"t take it personal, it's not about you it's about her.
I wish I knew that up front. Good luck
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OneDayForward - If that works for you, go for it. As far as I'm concerned, it is about me. Or, more precisely, it is about actions that are congruent with my own code of values. Selfless sacrifice is not a goal for me, unless the purpose of my sacrifice is greater in my estimation than whatever I'm sacrificing to attain it. I'm not looking for challenge for the sake of challenge - I seek experience that is meaningful to me within the bounds of my already well established code of values.

Let me put this another way. My mother's way of being disabled and dependent is morally repugnant to me. Placing myself in the service of something that is morally repugnant to me is itself morally repugnant. If she knew me better, she would understand that, but she is capable of blotting out everything she knows about me when it doesn't serve her purpose to understand it. That in itself is something I find morally repugnant. So trying to find a "spiritual lesson" in having to tend to her every need - no, no thank you. Seriously, no.
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Please take a breath...and try to take in what I am going to propose...
Maybe this is an opportunity for your spiritual growth.

From what you say, you are a wonderful caregiver for the kind of person who acts vulnerable and lets you know that they need you. That makes you feel good about yourself. However, now you are faced with a different type of person. So perhaps now, it is time for you to learn how to be a caregiver when there is nothing in it for you. It's obviously nice when we feel that there is some reciprocation of benefit, but how many of us are capable of giving when there is not? Can you learn to give without expecting anything in return? When will your sense of satisfaction come from within yourself despite or instead of from caring for another person? Are you capable of feeling good about yourself despite whatever she says? The toughest spiritual lesson is to learn is that it's not about you.

You don't mention what your mom is suffering from, but if it is dementia, it is not at all uncommon for the person to be demanding, difficult, angry, irrational, and on and on. You need to recognize that that is part of the disease that this person is afflicted with and that there is nothing that they can do about it. Even if your mom does not have dementia of some sort, it is quite likely that her emotional response is part of a disease process, and may be one that she has been afflicted with for a long time. If she has some other type of chronic illness, she is quite likely scared, angry, confused, and trying to exert her control over what shred of controllable things she has left. It will help if you can see that as her coping strategy not her just trying to make your life miserable.

Not everyone is going to be able to be vulnerable when they are faced with chronic illness and their own mortality. Your spiritual challenge is to figure out how you can find your own sense of reward in helping them anyway.
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There are so many posts of the "burden " of care giving. I have experienced a loving, appreciative mother in her last 5 years and even that was exhausting. SO my decision is to pay for long term care and have my Advanced Directive state that I want no intervention or feeding or hydration. And I hope to be able to stop eating and drinking when I am not able to care for myself.
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So true, JessieBelle...WE are a blessing to others (and, for me, like you wrote, to my mother and my brothers!).

I had to take my mother to church last Sunday, because her friend didn't know when she'd be going (went to a party the night before). My mother has all sorts of "rules" about going to church -- she holds on to the pews to move down the aisle (with her footed cane in her right hand). But then she didn't do what she said and was frantically almost calling out, "Where's your ARM? I need to hold onto your ARM!" I was annoyed. Someone told me, "Be glad you still have your mother. I don't." (And I felt like telling HER, "Be glad you still have your CHILDREN. I lost one of MINE.) Someone else told me that it was so good that my mother had me to "take care of her." I do NOT and WILL NOT "take care of her." I'm just her driver and medical secretary, as she tells people. She told the cardiologist's office that's all I do, and that her sons are her "personal assistants." Ha! She doesn't call THEM to plunge her toilet and fix this or that! I have told her she needs the rollator at church, but she refuses. Other "rules" include where she can and cannot walk -- large open spaces make her "panic" and any change of gradation or texture makes her creep along very slowly. (She has no sight in one eye, and her depth perception is horrible.) I HATE it when she's hanging on my arm.

I'd be a lot more understanding if we hadn't had the big argument last May, when she told me what she thought of me. I'm sure she will probably never reach the point when she's considered incompetent. So if that is the case that she can make her own legal decisions, then that's also the case that she can take some responsibility for what she says to people.
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Paradise76 - I would prefer a professional caregiver change my diapers and bathe me than force my children into unpaid slavery. To me, it would be like going to my Doctor for may annual exam or having my son do it. I much prefer the doctor!!!!

AND -seeing how my parents refused to plan for their retirement and decline and the stories on this site, my husband and I are determined that WE will plan, save money, downsize vs insist our son help us stay in a too-big, unmanageable house, hire help when needed and not delude ourselves that by having our son do everything we are "independent".

I am a very negative Nelly having dealt with the selfishness and nastiness of my elders and that goes for my parents and my inlaws. And what is see of my friends also in the sandwich generation. My grandparents on all sides of my family and my husband's family took the opportunity to voluntarily downsize, move to assisted livings etc. Why is my parents' generation so blasted self centered?

And no, I don't get any lovey dovey spiritual blessings from dealing with them. I just get more to confess.
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I'm glad you guys are writing. A difficult thing I've dealt with is that caregiving can be toxic to the spirit, instead of uplifting. Sometimes we have people talking about how wonderful it is and how richly rewarded caregivers will be. I wonder if these people are really be honest with themselves. I find the biggest challenge is maintaining my spirit in spite of being a caregiver. I hear about being lucky to still have my mother. Yeah, well they didn't see her chewing on my leg and bossing me around like her slave. And I hear about how richly rewarded I'll be. They didn't hear the evil things I was saying in my mind. The truth is that my caregiving has nothing to do with how lucky I am or if I'll be richly rewarded. What really counts is if I am able to keep myself lifted up out of the bad things that happen in life. To me, caregiving is not a blessing; it is a burden that I have to tote on my back. At the same time, I know that I am a blessing, not only to my mother but to my brothers. Strange that my mother and one brother treat me like a bad person when I am anything but. I think maybe they feel a bit guilty inside?? Who knows...
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Yes! Looking for an exit, CarlaCB! I would LOVE it if my mother would move to be near one of my brothers, and then I could breeze in once or twice a year to see her.

If my mother ends up being hospitalized for something, there's going to be the difficult decision of what happens next (if she can't live by herself any longer). She is NOT moving in with me, even temporarily. And I am NOT moving in with her. I will not be available to provide any post-op or post-rehab care, either. Been there, done that, and I was unappreciated and called a liar. ("You did NOT stay with me for 8 days!")

She has refused to look at any assisted living places, just for the future. So she will have no choice if it comes to that. It will be a crisis decision. And if she ends up in assisted living/skilled nursing, I intend to visit once a week. I will not be running there every day to manage this or that.
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CTTN55 - what you said really resonates with me, another reluctant caregiver. I don't think there's anything to be learned by caregiving for someone you don't want to spend time with. And I totally relate to feeling that it's enough we have to go through our own old age and decline, we shouldn't be dragged into someone else's as well. My mother thinks I should feel so sorry for her that I should rush to take care of her smallest whim, never realizing that I will face old age without children and with nobody to help me at all. No, I don't look for spiritual lessons in this. The one thing I'm constantly looking for is an exit.
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I keep thinking about this thread. I think I'm learning enough spiritual lessons from the sudden death of my son almost six years ago. I'm resentful that there are lessons I have to learn from taking care of my 90 y/o mother (which I don't want to do!).

It's really not so bad...yet. She no longer drives, and I set a firm boundary of taking her on one shopping trip per week. Since she hurt her knee and is becoming less mobile, she isn't going out as much as she would want to. And a friend takes her to Mass most Sundays...hurray!

But as she becomes increasingly forgetful and hard-of-hearing and not understanding things, it will become more difficult. I don't want to spend a lot of time around her. I don't want to hear her say, "Wait until YOU are like this." I'll have my own journey into old age, and I don't want to go through HER journey, too.

Ever since our big argument last May, I've tried to keep my distance. I don't call her up anymore. She made it pretty clear what she thinks of me.

I think my three brothers should be learning the lessons from caregiving our mother, NOT ME. I've told them that if it gets too much for me, that I'm walking away. None of them have dealt with the utter shock and world-tilting of losing a child. One or more (of THEM) should be dealing with the stress of our mother. NOT ME.

My mother still lives by herself (in a one-story condo). I'm her driver. She is still in charge of all of her finances, medical issues, etc. I looked at some ADL (Activities of Daily Living) questionnaires online yesterday, and realize that she is quite functional. Her reasoning and memory lapses aren't affecting her independent living abilities, at least yet.

In thinking about my past, I was subject to her extremely controlling ways and some borderline physical abuse. I distanced myself from her starting in my teens.

She's made it quite clear that she prefers my brothers, yet of course they are states away. Recently I learned that when my sister-in-law was pregnant, my mother told her that she (sil) must not want to have a girl. She must have said that because I've been such a disappointment to her.

Well, she's been a disappointment to me, too.
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We wereborn in this life for a certain job. What led us to this forum? I just want to leave here with the understanding that I did A job well done. So many issues so many experiences bottom line for me is well done with what I have and what I have learned from my mistakes and ignorance. It's something about the name of Jesus in my life that keeps me holding on. Chek out sounds of blackness hold on. That is one inspirirng song. The album is awesome. I can share a lot of my favorites. Our spirit is a strength. My connection with God is my strength
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Oh my goodness. You all are expressing and addressing my issues
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I have read & reread most of these posts, even making one myself and I feel I must again reply. I appreciate the frustration of family caregivers from exhaustion & no apparent positive feedback, (even negativity). Yes, your love one was not a nice person while in good health, so what makes us think this is going to change. Friends, let's turn the tables. Hear me out. None of us want to be in a position of needing care from family, friends, or professionals. Unfortunately with most of us living longer, and advancements in medicine skyrocketing, there is going to be the need for some kind of caregiving for the majority of us. Do any of us want a caregiver giving YOU a bed bath, changing a soiled diaper, or even feeding to have the attitude of "I wish they would just die"? I don't think so. Maybe, the medical and judicial fields will come with some form of assisted suicide, but for now, it is what it is, we give all we have & sometimes more. Put the Golden Rule in the foreground.
We are human with all that entailes..there are spits & spats in every family. Please don't look over to who you are taking care of and say something negative when...the last breath is drawn.
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CarlaCB, my heart goes out to you. I took care of my mother for several years. Her Alzheimer's slowly took away her ability to express any appreciation. You don't really identify what your mother's health limitations are. But whatever the case, what you are doing for her is a wonderful thing, whether she understands that or appreicates it or not. And someone else who appreciates it is God. Since you were asking about the spiritual aspect of caregiving I would like to share with you a few scriptures that helpled me. Proverbs 19:17 says: "The one showing favor to the lowly is lending to Jehovah , And He will repay him for what he does." Lowly literally means someone who is incapable or unable to care for himself. That is what you are doing for your mother. Giving her the care she may not be able to give to herself and God will never forget what you are doing. He will repay you. Isaiah 40:29 assures us that God "gives power to the tired one And full might to those lacking strength" And 2Corinthians 4:7 comforts us with knowing that God can give us "the power beyond what is normal" to deal with whatever situation comes our way. I know how hard it is to care for someone who is demanding and seems unappreciated, but you are needed and appreciated more then you will ever realize and from the spiritual aspect of it all, God notices and cares very much. Let him be your strength and know that it matters to Him. Hopefully this will help you as you deal with a difficult circumstance that only those who have been there could possibly understand. I hope this has been helpful to you.
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Hmmm, I'm sure it would be easier if I believed in God. Spiritual aspect? Realizing that I am just a human being, who has tried desperately to love my father, my entire life. Reality- he's an emotionally and physically crippled old man, who has traumatized the lives of his family (wife and daughter now dead). I'm the only one left, and care for him as best I can. I'm still trying to love him. It will be a relief when he is gone. I was happy to care for my mom- she was an angel, and always put me and my children before herself. I wish I could have given her more.
But my father forces me to confront the ugliness in myself- I'm terrified that I am like him, and I hope every day that he will die soon.
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murphyclm The Catholic bible has the Book of Sirach.
Sirach 3:12-15
[12] O son, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
[13] even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance;
in all your strength do not despise him.
[14] For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and against your sins it will be credited to you;
[15] in the day of your affliction it will be remembered
in your favor;
as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.

I read this over and over.  God knows I did the right thing taking care of my father. My father died this October and I would do it over again. 
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Blackhole - sounds like you're stuck on an "amusement" ride thru "The House of Horrors"! I can't imagine being blindsided on top of being on what feels like a roller coaster most days. Where's that exit? :oP
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Spiritual in that it flattened my spirit. In this decade, every new thing I learned about my mom, her marriage and how she managed her day-to-day was bad. No good news. Either steady state. Or more decline. Or another one of mom's cover-ups blown wide open.
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Aaaahhhh, yes. I don't "wish this on anyone", but I do find comfort in knowing that I alone don't grapple with these feelings. All my life, after my parents divorced, my mom always had to have a man to feel whole/take care of her. I was an afterthought. My brother drank himself to death a few years ago. So, here she is- no man and all "prospects" lost. There's no other surviving sib or nearby family. Some might question my motives for being her caregiver...It's complicated. But it does not always come from an entirely selfless, warm and fuzzy place. Some days I'm just biding my time with a negative, needy, woe is me woman who has no one to depend on but the daughter who was always an afterthought. I don't readily discuss the complexity of our situation... I do gladly take from this thread that I'm not a complete anomaly.
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I must agree with all the posts above. We must not beat ourselves up on making a "right or wrong" decision. There are moments in caregiving ( I am a professional caregiver as well as a family caregiver), that may not illicit the kind of response we wanted or even expected, but it is a " moment". We nurture, we are built up to be knocked down, but we still care. Even the lowest of the low personality has a need down deep inside for care. We pick ourselves up and go on to give another
"Care". Please don't miss the forest for the trees....we might be the next to be cared for
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