(I wrote the following words on December 6, 2010 about a month before my husband’s death from a devastating neurological disease. At that time I did not know that he only had a few weeks to live.)
“At first glance it would seem ridiculous to associate rejoicing with caregiving. The last four and one half years have been very difficult years for my husband and I, and yet when I look back there is so much for which to be thankful. There is so much for which I can rejoice.
Let me backtrack a bit, and first I will tell you the sad facts about my husband, Wayne’s disease. In April of 2006 Wayne was diagnosed with his neurological disease. It is called Multiple Systems Atrophy type c. It is affecting his cerebellum. Life expectancy from diagnosis usually is 6 to 10 years. Between the summer of 2006 when Wayne was diagnosed with his disease until now December of 2010 Wayne has gone from still working, to walking with a cane, to a walker, and now to a wheelchair. Since he can no longer help me with transfers, I recently needed to start to using a sit to stand lift with every transfer he makes. Wayne’s disease affects everything. It affects his mobility, his balance, his speech, his eating habits, and even his personality.
The emotional feelings that surface with caregiving can be intense at times. I miss the way things used to be. Every change downward is emotionally draining and scary. Also the physical demands of caregiving are heavy. Finally, more of the decisions fall on me now.
So what is there to rejoice about in this situation? For one thing I know that I am becoming a much stronger person through all this. I am having to do things which I never did before. This is good, as it has strengthened by character and confidence.
More importantly it has strengthened my faith and my love for my God. Over and over I have seen things fall into place when I felt I could no longer hold up. Most recently, my husband could no longer help me with transfers as he lost his ability to stand up on his own. I thought I would have to put him in a nursing home. Right when I was at my lowest point of despair my prayers were answered by the ability of my son to step up and help. Also I was able to procure a sit to stand lift. Even though the lift is a clumsy heavy piece of equipment to use, it is an answer to prayer. I have seen over and over again this kind of answer to prayer. So I am sad about my husband’s illness. It is the heartbreak of my life. But I rejoice in the provisions from above.
I also rejoice in my three sons and their wives. I rejoice in my seven wonderful grandchildren. I rejoice in their beautiful and sweet spirits and in their love for their Grandpa and I. I rejoice that we could celebrate one of my granddaughter’s birthdays yesterday. Even my husband enjoyed the festivities, although he fell asleep later in the day. I rejoice that I am an over three-year breast cancer survivor. I also rejoice in the sun which is shining today after many cloudy days. I rejoice in the daily blessings. Lord, help me to remember these blessings when I become sad or overwhelmed with the challenges of caregiving.”
Dear Christian Caregiver, the challenges and heartaches of caregiving are always present, but the blessings are there also. How can you rejoice in this day?