Monday, July 25, 2011

The Difficulties of Going Away

One of the difficulties of caregiving for my husband especially in the last couple of years of my husband’s life was leaving home and going away. On May 17, 2009 I journaled the following words:
“Yesterday at my husband’s suggestion we went out to eat. He so seldom wants to go anywhere let alone suggest it, so I readily agreed. It was very windy, however, and so we took the wheelchair. By the time I had wrestled the wheelchair in and out of the trunk of the car, gone through the buffet line for my husband and then for myself, and then basically carried on a conversation with myself during lunch; I began to wonder if it was worth it.”

Sometimes my husband, Wayne and I were able to go out to eat with some of my husband’s family at their suggestion. That was enjoyable especially on cold weather days, as it gave my husband and I a chance to get out of the house. There was a kind of loneliness in doing this also, however. Even though I knew they cared, nobody really understood fully what we were going through.

I missed being able to just jump into the car and easily go and do what we wanted to do. Now going out to eat with my husband’s siblings involved me helping my husband to the car with his walker and later his wheelchair and putting his walker or wheelchair in and out of the car wherever we went. Since we usually went to a buffet, it also involved me having to help my husband pick up his food. When I saw other couples both in good health I was happy for them. It did make me long for those days when that was true for us also, however. Further I was often frustrated that most of my in-laws let me struggle with going through the buffet line alone with my husband, Wayne.

Most Thursday nights we would go to our local son’s family’s home for supper and the evening. Often my mother-in-law and sister-in-law would be there also. My son was always so helpful getting my husband in and out of the car and into their house. First we did this with a walker, and we would help my husband up one step. Later we had to use a portable ramp and the wheel chair. My son was always helpful when he was with us, but so often I struggled alone when we left home to go places.

I always knew that there was a divine purpose for all that was happening in my husband’s and my lives. I knew all things would work for my ultimate good as a child of God. I knew I still had overflowing blessings in my life, but that did not stop the sadness in my heart at seeing my husband’s body deteriorate. It did not stop the sadness of me needing to take on more and more responsibilities that used to be my husband’s responsibilities in our marriage.

I certainly did not choose the caregiving role that God had assigned to me those years during my husband’s illness, but I do know that God was with me each step of the way. As difficult as it was, I would do it again. I had to cling very close to the Lord during those days, as I still need to do now. The Lord God had to give me the grace and strength for this role. He was with me in my unique struggles. He guided me, loved me, and forgave my many moments of impatience.

Dear Christian Caregiver, the Lord God is with you also. He knows your unique struggles and heartaches. Lean into His strength. Trust His love for you.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Nature’s storms can come in many forms. Some storms come completely unexpectedly. Some storms are predicted ahead of time by our local weather man. The storms of life can also come in many forms. Sometimes we know a storm of life is brewing on the horizon. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly. Either way we usually cannot choose our life’s circumstances. We do have a choice, however, in our responses to life’s storms.

I was not prepared for the “storm” of my husband’s diagnosis of a devastating neurological disease called multiple systems atrophy type c in 2006 followed by my own diagnosis of breast cancer in 2007. I am thankful to report that today I am a four year survivor of breast cancer. The same was not true for my husband, Wayne, however. For over four years I saw his continual decline downwards until his death in January of 2011.

In 2009 over two years after my husband’s diagnosis I wrote the following words:
“Caregiving like the weather always has its ups and downs. Some days feel stormy, and on those days I feel I can’t do it anymore. On other days life tends to take on a certain rhythm and pattern and is workable. Life always tends to be a mixture of joys and sorrows. I am joyful in my faith and in my relationship with my Lord. I am thankful that I know He is always with me. It is difficult living with the reality of my husband’s disease, however. I am happy that the struggles of life are making me stronger in my character, in my faith, and as a person. I struggle with the fact, however, that it sometimes has to be so emotionally exhausting, and I wonder why life has to be so difficult.”

One of the things the storms of the heartache and pains of caregiving taught me is that I could not and can not rely on my own strength. Hence, in the pain and losses of my life God was and is trying to teach me that I really am not in control of anything.

I think this is an especially hard lesson for a caregiver to learn. This is because caregivers are constantly “fighting” for the best health and well-being of their loved ones. This need to try to control and do it in our own strength has to be offered up to God on the altar of surrender, however; if we are going to be strong in the storms of life.

During caregiving and even now the Lord was and is also trying to teach me that concentrating on the pain and heartaches of the storms of life often can blind us to the rainbow of the Lord’s presence in our lives. We have to look for the wonders and workings of God in our lives. We have to look for His presence. Out of the heartache and brokenness He can make something beautiful in His perfect timing.

Dear Christian caregiver, the storms of caregiving and life in general can be very brutal and even devastating. Know that the Lord has the answers when you don’t. Know that He is with you each step of the way. Know that He is in control, and He is very present in your life and in the life of your loved one. Finally, know that He sees your stormy days, and is loving you through the storms of caregiving.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Look For the Blessings

As a caregiver I often found myself overwhelmed and discouraged with the challenges of caregiving. It was so easy to focus on the negative aspects of caregiving and forget about the blessings which still overflowed in my life. The Lord wanted me to first of all focus on Himself and not on the challenges. He also wanted me to recognize the many blessings which He daily gave me.

On February 6, 2009 I journaled the following words:
“It is so easy to feel sorry for myself when I think about what both my husband and I have gone through in these past few years, but I have so many blessings yet. I have a home, food, clothing, and the love of family and church people. Most of all I have my Savior who loves me.

In the Biblical parable of the prodigal son, the older son became jealous and angry when the father lavished gifts on his returning formerly wayward son. The father said to this older son in effect, ‘Why are you jealous?’ He went on to say ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ I have my God always with me even in the hard times, and every spiritual blessing God has He has given to me. Yes, life is very difficult sometimes, but this life is not all there is. Also my God provides joys and blessings even in this life. If I could only always keep focused on that beautiful truth.”

In the midst of caregiving someone on my online support group suggested writing down at least three things each day for which we were thankful. It is amazing what just such a simple exercise each day can do for one’s perspective. As a caregiver I needed to remember God’s past workings in my life, and I needed to look for and be thankful for His present blessings and workings in my life.

I definitely saw God’s working in my life during the caregiving years. During my caregiving days my husband’s mobility capabilities deteriorated to the point that by late 2010 I knew I could not continue to take care of him by myself. At that low point in time in my life my son was able to greatly step up and help. Soon after that I heard about a sit to stand device which we could also use with my husband, Wayne. I believe with all my heart that God was leading me step by step. Again I learned, however, that I had to look for the workings and blessings of God in my life. I also learned that an attitude of gratitude is essential.

On Feb 7, 2009 I journaled the following words:
“I wonder if difficult times in our lives sometimes makes us more appreciative of the little joys and blessings. Thank you, Lord, for daily blessings even the ones we do not always recognize.”

Dear Caregiver, when you become overwhelmed with the difficulties of caregiving focus on the Lord. Also look for His workings and blessings in your life. It will keep you encouraged to persevere in the challenges of being a caregiver.