Sunday, March 18, 2018

Emotional Roller Coaster

(This is yet another chapter from my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers available at Amazon and elsewhere online.)

September of 2010 proved to be emotionally draining in many ways for me as a caregiver. It was the beginning of many exceptionally stressful days and the prelude to my husband’s death on January 2, 2011.  It was an emotional coaster month.

On September 2, 2010 my mother-in-law passed away in the early morning. She was 88 years old, and except for her last two years of her life when she was fighting ovarian cancer, she had lived a healthy life. It was difficult to say good-by to her, but we knew she was now free of all sadness and sickness and was experiencing only pure joy with her Lord. We were happy for her.

During the week of my mother-in-law’s funeral there were the joyful highs of having all three of our sons home together for the first time in three years. My husband, Wayne, also had a great day on the Sunday we were altogether. I hadn’t seem him smile that much in a long time.  Yet, as great as it was to have family around, there was a lot of stress in having a household of people along with taking care of my husband's needs.

There were also the stresses and lows of Wayne having a very difficult day both on Monday, the day before his mother’s funeral, and again on Wed., the day after the funeral. On those days he did not function at all well and transfers were very difficult. There was also the stress of wondering if Wayne would be able to function well on Tuesday, the day of the funeral. (He did function well on Tuesday, and so was able to attend the funeral.)

In the days and weeks after my mother-in-law’s funeral and after our children’s families returned to their own homes there continued to be a whirlwind of emotions swirling around in my heart. My mother-in-law’s decline and death and its accompanying grief tended to blend with my grief connected with my husband’s illness and decline.

By September 2010, the constant ups and downs of my husband’s disease really became draining. So often, Wayne would have one or two relatively good days followed by a “crash” day where he slept most of the day. These “crash” days sometimes also involved difficulty in managing his transfers to the bathroom, bed, the car, etc.  
His brain was simply having difficulty processing and making the moves he needed to make.

So those weeks in September of 2010 consisted of emotions swinging from one extreme to another.  I felt stress because of all the emotions and all that had occurred. I do not know how I would have gotten through those days without the Lord. Dear Christian caregiver, lean on the Lord in those emotional roller coaster days.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

His Faithfulness

(This post is another chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

It was August 24, 2010. It was my birthday. Family members were at our house to celebrate that night. Earlier in the day we had received a mobility chair for Wayne. It was perhaps a sign of things to come. Wayne’s declines came fast and furious in the next four months, and the emotional anguish and stress proved heavy during that time.

Something else happened on the memorable day in August, however. One of my family members called to me to come outside to look at a beautiful rainbow that had appeared in the sky. That rainbow was indeed awesome! I had not ever remembered seeing such a beautiful and full rainbow across the whole sky like that rainbow.

That rainbow that day felt like a special birthday present to me from God Himself. It was a reminder to me of the faithfulness of my God, a God who said to me and continues to say to me that He will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5b in the Bible)

God has indeed proven Himself faithful in those months since that August day in 2010. The next few months in 2010, as I have alluded to before, were very stressful and discouraging as my husband’s health deteriorated at an alarming rate. God provided strength and resources all along the way, however. Wayne entered heaven on January 2, 2011. He was free from the body in which he had been trapped and could now enjoy the Lord’s presence forever. For me it was the beginning of a difficult grief journey. Through it all, however, the Lord has taught me so much about His faithfulness and my need to be dependent on Him. It has also deepened my relationship with the Lord and made me a more compassionate person.

Dear Christian caregiver, God never promises to give us a life without problems and trials. Care-giving for someone with a serious illness is one of life’s deepest trials. I know this is true, because I walked that path. God, however, has promised to walk with us through life’s heartaches. He has promised to be faithful. Look for His wonders, dear caregiver. Rest in His faithfulness.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

One Year Ago Today and Eternity

A year ago today my Mom passed away after having suffered a stroke a few days before that.  I was with her the last few moments of her life.  I wrote about that experience, about care-giving, and my reflections on eternity a few days after her funeral in March of 2017.  Bear with me as I bring that post back today.  Just click on the link below to reread that post.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Grandpa and God's Kingdom

As my husband's caregiver I saw my husband suffer many indignities as his disease progressed.  He became more and more disabled until at the end when he was totally dependent on others for everything.  On the surface that seems like such a waste of a beautiful man's life.  How was God's Kingdom advanced through all he suffered?  For that matter how was God's Kingdom advanced through his eventual death and lost to his family?  Would not God's Kingdom be better served by him still being alive as a healthy vibrant husband and grandpa?

I recently experienced similar questions in my mind when I had a major back pain flare-up, and my activities were significantly curtailed for a period of time.  Yet God often uses these very things for His Kingdom.  It personally reminds us our own weaknesses and makes us more aware of our need to be dependent on the Lord alone.  This in turn makes us more useful in His Kingdom.

About a week and a half ago I had one of my three sons' family in my home for a visit for a few days.  This family's home is in the UK.  Sometimes I lament the fact that I do not have more opportunities to have an influence, especially spiritually, on my grandchildren due to the distance they live from me.  Yet I had a couple beautiful interactions during the time this son's family was with me.

One of these interactions was with my nine year old granddaughter shortly before they left.  I own a few collector dolls.  Three of those dolls were smaller dolls, and they were on a shelf in the basement where the family was sleeping.  My granddaughter remarked how she liked my dolls.  Because I have done similar things for other grandchildren, I offered her the opportunity to choose between one of the three dolls to take home with her as her own.  She chose the doll with the color hair closest to her own.

What was also unique about this doll, however, is the fact that one of her legs was missing.  The other two dolls have all their limbs.  This lead to a discussion about how some people have disabilities and the fact that we all have weaknesses.  We also talked about how we are all special in God's eyes, if we love Him.  We further talked about how our weaknesses make us more dependent on the Lord.  Finally, we talked about how all disabilities will be eliminated some day when Jesus returns.

This granddaughter, although she says she remembers a smile her Grandpa gave her, would barely remember her Grandpa except through pictures.  Yet perhaps her Grandpa's influence on her life is much stronger because of the disability of his last years on earth. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Remember the Love

(This is a chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

One day in August of 2010 a few months before my husband’s death and in the midst of the chaos of care-giving I was having a good day. The weather was beautiful and free of all the heat and humidity we had been experiencing. Secondly, my husband was having a good day, and he had experienced a good therapy session. Finally, I had just finished reading some letters that my husband, Wayne, and I had written to each other in 1970 and 1971 before we were married.

Wayne and I met and dated from April of 1970 to the end of the school year, and then we dated again in the next school year until our marriage on July 30, 1971,  I was a teacher then, and I went home to my parent’s house during the summers. He went to summer camp for the Army Reserves both summers. The first summer, I also spent 6 weeks involved in a summer mission program, and the second summer I was at my parent’s home preparing for our wedding in my home town and state while he was getting things squared away in Wisconsin for our first home.

On that particular August day in 2010 I was inspired to read our love letters which we had written to each other those two summers when we were separated while dating. It proved a real joy to me to reread those letters that day, and I found myself smiling often. Those letters reminded me that the first summer Wayne was more sure of his feelings for me than I was for him. I knew I liked him, but I needed to be sure about love and marriage. The next summer when we were corresponding we were engaged, and both of us were sure of our love for each other. It was fun to reread about our young love.

I thought that rereading these old letters might make me feel a little sad thinking back to those days and comparing it with the life we were now living dealing with Wayne’s neurological condition. I guess it did a little. We had matured so much since those early days, however, and I was glad for that growth in maturity. I actually probably felt more sad about no longer being able to do some of the fun things we had done together during our “empty nest” years.

So reading those letters put a smile on my face that day. It reminded me of what was, and it reminded me of the beginning of our love. I love reading inspirational (Christian) romance books as a way to relax. Reading these letters was a little like that, except it was my story. That day, I had a smile on my face.

Dear Christian caregiver, terminal disease can change a relationship with a caregiver and his or loved ones who are ill. Take time often to remember the love that was and still exists. It will lighten the load.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Your Divine Valentine

(Forgive me for once again republishing a post from the past. This is a blog post which I have published the last few years.  I think it is a message worth repeating again, as Wednesday is Valentine's Day.)

Dear caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost?  Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved one for whom you are caring?  Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine's day make you feel melancholy and sad?

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love.  He in effect is your Divine Valentine.  He is sufficient.  He alone can give you all that you need.  Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine:

Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all, Jesus.
(Song of Solomon 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word.  (Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime,but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity,
(Jeremiah 31:3)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Happily Ever After

(I posted this last year about this time.  There were many views.  I hope it proves a blessing again this year.)

I have a secret I am going to disclose.  I love Cinderella "happily ever after" type movies.  The truth is, however, that our "happily ever after" will not come until our Lord returns.  He is our only true Prince-Prince of Peace.

There are many moments of joy and happiness in this world.  There are also many trials and challenges.  God doesn't always let everything go our way or facilitate our version of "happily ever after" at least not during our existence on earth.  God is more interested in bringing us into a deeper relationship with Him and to a place of submission to His will.  He wants us to come to a place of trusting that His will is always best even in the struggles of life.  He wants us to rest in Him, to trust in Him.

Even in the struggles we can know that He loves us and cares about us, though our unreliable feelings may try to tell us differently.  He loves us even when He doesn't "fix" our difficult situations in the way we would like Him to remedy them. We must rely on the truths of Scripture which promise us over and over that He will never leave us. God often uses the difficult chapters of our lives in ways that He doesn't use the smooth-sailing moments of our lives.  In the difficult moments it is also His chance to show His faithfulness over and over again,  Rest in His faithfulness, dear caregiver.

Below is a link to an interview with Laura Story.  Her husband and she, as his wife, have been dealing with the consequences of her husband's brain tumor for over a decade.  Her vision of "happily ever after" would have been for God to fix the situation. That is not what happened.  Yet God has used this situation in her life for her good, to bring blessings.  God has also used the situation for His glory in wonderful ways-one being to encourage us. Click on the first link below to hear her story and insights.  You also may also want to check out her song "Blessings" by clicking on the second link below: