written by
Sabrina Johnson

The Beautiful Side of Sandwich Caregiving

motherhood caregiver 3 min read , May 18, 2022

Growing up, I would spend countless hours envisioning my future. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, even at a young age. As a child, I pictured the adult me as a mom spending time with my retired parents. My dad being six years older than my mom, I knew I envisioned years of him rolling on the floor covered in too many treats as my kids grew, and we waited for my mom to join him in retirement.

Then ALS happened.

Then Colon Cancer happened.

The future I envisioned constantly being rewritten, moments you wished would happen being erased as a possibility.

But then something happened.

A new future was starting to be written, and if I am being honest, the story is more beautiful than I ever could have envisioned myself.

Being a sandwich caregiver is hard; it’s trying, mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting.

Do you know what else it is, though?

It is absolutely beautiful.

Thor grew up watching his Papa go from walking to wheeling, eating from his mouth to using a feeding tube. In his little eyes, his little mind, that was the way Papa’s lived life. Different is normal to him; different is beautiful, and different is life.

Ashton spends his mornings looking for Gaga, who has spent the last couple of years staying with us for chemotherapy and medical treatments. She recently stayed with us for a week, and we are all missing her being a part of our daily routine.

The boys have grown up with extra cuddles, more visits, and a closer connection than they ever would have been able to experience without our worlds being thrown by illnesses.

My world has felt like one big earthquake for years now. Even when there is a break in the trembling, I fear coming out from under the table. There are days when I want to walk around like a child during an earthquake drill in elementary school, hands over my head and ready at any moment to drop under my desk.

This was not the life I was supposed to have, not what I envisioned as a little girl.

I did not envision losing my dad before I turned thirty or learning how to pull a long needle out of a port planted inside my mom’s chest every other week.

I also did not envision the deep conversations, the moments of weakness between each other, the way you relearn one another in a new role as grandparent and parent.

Sandwich caregiving is hard; it’s trying, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is also beautiful.

Whether it be because of an illness or not, time together is something never to take for granted.

While this is not the future I envisioned, this future is far more beautiful.

The sandwich caregiving future is ooey-gooey. It is the type of sandwich that leaves a stain on the counter and somehow stays sticky for hours after cleaning the kitchen. It is also the type of sandwich that is so good that your heart skips a beat, the kind of sandwich that people do not understand until they try it themselves.

Being a sandwich caregiver is hard; it’s trying, mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting.

Being a sandwich caregiver is beautiful.

Try not to let the hard overpower the beautiful. Ask yourself how you want to turn this into a beautiful memory in the darkest moments. I know the dark days make it seem like one wrong step will activate the earthquake you have avoided, but if you give your eyes time to adjust, you will be able to see the light even in the darkest room.

Find the beautiful, have the conversations, and enjoy the ooey-gooey moment of your life. Sandwich caregiving might not be what you envisioned when you were younger; it might not be how you want to imagine your present.

I held on to the story I envisioned as a little girl for far too long. I held on tight to the future I wanted so desperately to have for myself and my family. It was not until I let go of that story that I was able to see the beauty in the story being rewritten and created in the present.

Let go of what you envisioned, and start seeing the beautiful.

Allow yourself to have deep conversations, enjoy the time together, and rewrite your story with beauty, love, and joy.

family caregivers sandwich caregiver