Autopilot – the mode of operation for long-term caregivers

And the God who gets us through

In times of trial, when it feels like we’re flying alone – God provides better than “autopilot” and becomes the pilot of our journey

Autopilot becomes the way we handle things flung at us as new caregivers.  Actually, who am I kidding?  It didn’t get easier just because it became longer – in fact, the longer I lived on emergency-ready, life-and-death mode, the grayer my world became.  My son was four-years-0ld when we started his cancer journey, and I was 39.  When we finished chemotherapy, he was 7 1/2  and I was 93.  My always-learning brain had turned to mush (Anita calls it chemo brain by proxy) and I literally saw through a gray haze. I functioned on autopilot – but it worked, because of Who my pilot is:  this is a poem I wrote shortly after finishing chemo and realizing I was in deep-struggle-mode.

I’m on autopilot

Feet float

From place to place

Unaware of where they’re going

Lost from where they’ve been


Eyes drift

Across words on a page

Reading and rereading a passage

Unable to soak it in


Ears buzz

Around conversations flying by

Desperately trying to pick out information

Confused by threads of thought


Mouth stumbles

Over pieces of a conversation

Tripping over thoughts refusing to be expressed

Incapable of coherence


Hands flutter

From task to task

Forgetting how to accomplish anything outside of an emergency

Helpless to proceed


I’m on autopilot again Lord,







The only way I can do anything at all

Is to have You

Be my pilot

Caregiver coping - #autopilot. Let God be your pilot! #caregiving Click To Tweet

Put God in the pilot seat!

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  • Susan

    He was 7 and you were 93…I know it’s not meant to be funny but I definitely chuckled. Children are so stinkin resilient, aren’t they Carol. I’m so glad this story has a happy ending. xo

    • Thank you Susan – me too! But actually it was kinda meant to be funny, because if I can’t laugh a bit about our journey, then it has too much control over me! 93 – an exaggeration, but a recognition of feelings as well!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Carol, you are so right! When I was a caregiver in my early life, I was on autopilot most of the time.

    But there is danger there, as I learned; the person for whom we’re caring is changing, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, and those changes are easy to miss, leading to a patient’s sense of isolation.

    I only learned that in retrospect; I am not proud of this.

    • Because my caregiving was to a young child, my autopilot didn’t affect him nearly as much as myself and my own self-care and outgoing personality that morphed into introversion. I think, I hope and I pray that my boy didn’t feel my autopilot self!

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  • I can’t even imagine. 🙁 Sometimes being able to go on autopilot is a blessing in a way; we don’t have to worry about minuscule decisions when there are life and death issues on the line. But it’s not the way we prefer to live. I’m so sorry that your family had to go through this.

    • While it’s not been a chosen journey – it’s such a blessing to see where God brings us and how He works through our foggy days that’s it’s all somehow turned into blessing…

  • Your poem expresses EXACTLY what it’s like!

    • Maybe writing it during the fog helped that! Thanks for the understanding!

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  • JeanneTakenaka

    Carol, beautiful words. I haven’t been in quite the place you’ve described, and I appreciate your insight. We always need the Lord to weather life’s difficult seasons, don’t we?

    • Thank you Jeanne – these places quite took me by surprise, and it humbled me greatly to find that I could not just will my mind out of the fog! But God is good, ALL the time!

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  • Carol, I love your poem, and I’m sure it adequately portrays the place you were in. I have been on autopilot at times when I would be so tired from caring for my mom or my son. Never to the extent of having them go through chemo, though. I can’t imagine how hard to see your young child have to deal with so much. But God does give us strength and carries us when we can’t seem to move. Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem.

    Blessings to you! xo

    • Thank you Gayl – I always appreciate you dropping by! 🙂