Friday, February 2, 2018

Jesus Is My Boss

It is with utmost sadness and grief that I find myself a former caregiver, as of today. My husband, whom I've seen through multiple life-threatening crises over the years, has finally breathed his last at a care facility that he's been at for over a year now. My daughter and I were with him as much as possible his last day with us. Even though he was unresponsive to our voices and touch, it felt right for us to be by his side.

I'm so glad I saw him just the day before too. We had an unusually good time visiting then. It seemed he was awake and alert longer than I had seen him in quite awhile. One other thing that struck me as a bit strange was that he asked me to wear one of his ball caps. Evidently, he'd been wearing both his old cowboy hat and a ball cap that said "Jesus is my boss" for a few days. Some friends who had been to see him took his picture wearing them.

Why he would give the cap to me, and insist I wear it, was rather puzzling. But it wasn't until the next day when we got the call from his nurses about his rapid decline that I realized that he was trying to tell me something by his gesture. My only "boss" now would be Jesus. He was turning me over to Him.

What a gift from this man I thought I was taking care of for eighteen years. Really, all along he's been taking care of me. The faith in Jesus he encouraged and supported was not only needed to live with him all these years, but it will be the same faith I will need to live without him.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Developing Trust

One would think that after seventeen years of caregiving for my husband at home, I would have mastered the concept of trust. It's rather easy to put your trust in God, however. He's a miracle-worker. His powers cannot be matched. We need Him on our side. And it's relatively easy to call on Him when a crisis happens, or even when the small stuff gets to us.

Recent  happenings, however, have reminded me that I need to call forth my ability to trust in others, outside the realm of deity. Dean has been in long-term care for over a year now, and I'm still finding it difficult to trust those who are now responsible for his care. Even though they have proven time and again to have our best interest at heart and to be totally skilled in knowing how to manage his care, it just isn't easy to turn him over to other caregivers more equipped to handle his ever-growing special needs.

But trust is trust, and knowing how to trust our fellow man is just as important as trusting God. After all, we will be living side by side with each other in heaven. We'd better get this valuable ability mastered if we're going to reside there with fellow believers.

It's more complicated here on this sinful planet, however. But once we've determined that someone is deserving of our trust, then we'd better be able to hand over appropriate control, even if it involves the care of someone we love and cherish.

As Dean struggles with ever-increasing health challenges, I am forced to release him to medical professionals, who can better cope with the kind of care he needs. Of course, the Lord is always there to call on, but I must develop my trust in those immediately addressing his care. It's not an easy task to achieve. But it has shown me that trust is still something I haven't mastered.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Low-key Christmas

I've been somewhat reluctant to share what my Christmas was like this year. It looked to be such a happy, eventful time, but seems like there was one minor let-down after another as the days surrounding Christmas swiftly came and went.

Of course, the highlight would be having Dean home from the care facility for a couple of days, the longest home visit we've tried so far. And it was, on the whole, everything I expected it to be. Dean slept in his recliner 80% of the time, while I constantly watched the clock for when his next blood sugar check and insulin shot would be. We're talking every four hours, day AND night. Plus I kept busy in the kitchen, trying to ward off his next hunger pangs, which was basically non-stop. I tried to prepare his favorite foods, while making sure his snacks were of the low-calorie, low-sugar variety, while still being soft enough for him to handle with only four teeth. Believe me, it was a challenge.

Our daughter's family came over Christmas Eve for a short time, and it was wonderful opening gifts with them. Even a 7- and a 9-year-old get pumped up when it comes to opening their gifts, so we had a very enjoyable time seeing what everyone in our two families received from each other.

The gift I mailed to my sister in Florida got delayed in transit, and she's still waiting for it to arrive. It's been rather fun calling her every day, to see if it's arrived and finally giving her subtle hints about what it might be.

As you can see, even though the holidays have been a rather low-key, mild affair, we have made the best of them, and sometimes that's all we can do. The real rejoicing will be when we meet the Lord in the air at His Second Coming. Now we can really look forward to that holiday! No disappoints then!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Doubting the Caregiver

After returning from prayer meeting, I had two phone messages left from Dean. Both sounded desperate that I would be at the special holiday meal the next day that he'd just heard about. Of course, I had my reservation in quite awhile back and fully intend to eat this Christmas family meal with him at the care center, where he's residing.

This morning (very early, I might add), Dean called me twice again to express concern that I would be at the holiday meal, and that I even knew about it. I reassured him that it has been on my calendar all month, and that I would definitely see him in the afternoon before the meal.

He went on to say that I'm the only reason he hasn't been able to come home. He's so disliking where he's at, and is waiting for me to do something about it. He has stages where, between his brain injury and his "old age" dementia, there is just no reasoning with him about why he can't come home. He doesn't see that his health status has changed. That he CAN'T take care of himself, like he thinks he already does, etc., etc.

Anyway, after our phone conversations, where all I could do was try to reassure him that I love him and was doing all I could to get him "out of there", I got this sudden image of how our prayers must sometimes sound to God. We blame God for the places we're in. We can't understand why He's allowed us to stay on this old, sinful planet for so long. Is He really going to come for us and have that final "marriage supper" with us? And on and on.

God has tried to reason with us through the pages of the Bible, but our finite minds just can't comprehend what's going on behind the celestial scenes. Yes, our minds are in a demented state sometimes when it comes to wanting "out of here". Thank God, He's such a patient Caregiver and allows us our rants and doubting accusations. We must trust Him more and know that He truly does love us and is doing all He can to rescue us from our earthly "prisons".

Especially hard to do when you're in a place like Dean's!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thankful for the Love of Jesus

They say it's not the "what"s in our life we should be thankful for, but the "who"s. That lesson really stood out for me this Thanksgiving, as I reflected on what it's like for Dean and all others who are in nursing centers, hospitals, prisons, living on the streets, or any place that would be our last choice for a home.

The sad part is many of these individuals not only have almost nothing material to be thankful for, but they are short on people in their lives who matter as well. What can we possibly be thankful for when the "what"s AND the "who"s are in short supply?

The only answer comes when we are in Christ Jesus. His love can withstand it all. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...I am persuaded that neither death, nor life...shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35, 38, 39

So, the only thing I'm proclaiming to be thankful for this Thanksgiving is the love of Jesus. Seeing so many in need at the care center reminded me that the last thing we will have to take with us on this earth is that love...but it's also the best thing.

My church opened its doors and fed over 150 individuals who needed a place to eat on Thanksgiving Day. 
Here's a few of them who tasted the love of Jesus in every thankful bite!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Take Me Home!

For years now, Dean and I have attended a support group for people with brain injuries. Although the group is primarily for the TBI population, we, their caregivers, have as much to gain from attending as do the survivors of head trauma.

This point was brought out to me at last night's meeting. Since November is National Family Caregivers Month, we wanted to highlight the caregivers among us. So, the topic centered on the needs and challenges of the caregivers who were present.

Some of the positive benefits that were mentioned included...

  • a sense of giving back to someone, 
  • the satisfaction of knowing that our loved one is getting the best care possible, 
  • increased meaning and purpose in life, and 
  • a feeling that we are modeling a tradition of caring for others to emulate.

We not only have an obligation to advocate for our loved one's needs, but for the needs of other caregivers, faced with similar struggles. This was done in a big way at the state level the day before at the Nebraska Capitol Building.

The governor signed a proclamation recognizing November as the month for caregivers. Three caregivers who were there to receive that proclamation included myself, a friend from my church, and another gentleman caregiver from our brain injury support group. It was a moment of pride to be among the many caregivers attending.

Also, that day we were provided a wonderful luncheon and more recognition at the governor's mansion, right next to the Capitol. The afterglow of this event was quickly overshadowed by two phone messages, left to me by Dean (my husband), upon my return home.

His messages went like this:
"It's 2:35 p.m. I woke up and couldn't find you. I've been looking for you everywhere. I don't know what to do. I love you, bye."

"This is Dean again. It's 2:38, and I'm trying to find you. I'm looking to go home. How did I get here? Please find me and take me home. Love you, bye."

His voice sounded so small and pitiful. Like a small child's. Although I have heard these cries from Dean before (he tends to get disoriented after his naps sometimes), they particularly touched me after having just come from such a privileged formal dinner, at a mansion no less.

How it must move the heart of God to hear the cries of His children down on this earth. He wants to sweep down and take us in His arms of love, as much as I wanted to reach out to Dean that day. Praise God, that day will come though. Like Dean, we must be patient and wait for our Supreme Caregiver to return and make all things right.

 That's me, second from the right--Joanne, third from the right, and Bill, the third from the left
(two blue shirts).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Hardest Lesson of Our Life

Perhaps because Dean's been in long-term care for over a year now, I'm feeling more and more at a loss for finding"lessons of faith" to share on this blog. There are just fewer and fewer learning experiences to draw from my caregiving.

In addition, my grandmother babysitting has slowed down, due to the girls getting older and work hours changing for their parents.

Even my pets (a small dog and a cockatiel) are getting older now, sleeping more, and I'm afraid I won't have them around much longer to care for.

But God certainly hasn't stopped teaching me about faith and my need to depend on Him. As we get deeper and deeper into our senior years, the hardest lesson we may have to learn is how to depend on others, instead of being the one they depend on.

Dean's experience at the care center is certainly a model for me to follow. I'm sure the hardest part of being there, and why he calls it "jail", is because others must do things for him that he used to do for himself.

In the same way, I must allow God to do everything for me. In addition to giving others a blessing, we must learn the most gracious way to receive those blessings. Yes, that may truly be the hardest lesson we must learn in our lifetime.

Receiving a gift is as important as getting it!