Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Casting My Vote

The school my granddaughters attend has gotten out early this year; so this week we have set up a schedule of relatives to "watch" them during the day, when both mom and dad are working. Happily, I am on that schedule, and will look forward to my days of retirement living having more purpose. It is probably the most important job I could ask for.

But today, as election day, I had another important job to do. I told the girls (now almost 8 and 10 years old) they would have to accompany me to a voting site (our neighborhood library), so I could cast my vote. It was a privilege, being able to vote for the candidates of my choice. Of course, in a democracy like ours, I must surrender my choice to the majority. I don't always get the candidates I want.

I have likewise chosen to surrender my life choices to God, and in doing so, I am sometimes shown a different path than I would have voted for myself. But, in the end, I wouldn't want it any other way. God is really the only leader worthy of our support. So, cast your vote for Him every day! You won't be sorry.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Story That Changed Us

My (I still want to say "our") granddaughters spent the night with me last night. It's so nice that we are in the same town and can do that occasionally. They both chose a book for me to read to them just before they went to sleep.

Jenna, the oldest (9), chose a children's picture book we got from the Alzheimer's Association a few years ago. It was about a grandpa who began to show symptoms of dementia. Both the girls and I were sadly reminded of the many challenges their own grandpa had, and how hard it is not having him around any more. He and his quirky behavior was all they knew. It touched me that she wanted to read again how someone else coped with having a grandpa who was quite different from other adults in their life.

I saw a quotation the other day that said, "It's funny, because we ask God to change our situation, not knowing that He put us in that situation to change us." I wonder how having a grandpa like theirs will change them, and how it has changed all of us.

It certainly will have an impact on how the girls view the difficulties of others. They will not only have abounding sympathy for those who struggle, but a sterling empathy for others that will enable them even more to help those less fortunate.

So, sometimes God's goal isn't just to change us, but to ultimately change those around us. Like He multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed a multitude, He can use our experiences to shape several generations that come after us. We will never know this side of heaven how many people we have fed, whose lives are better because of how we lived, even though it meant almost unbearable trials and sacrifice.

Here's a video of Dean reading a book to Julia a few years ago...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Expressions of Grief

Just celebrated my birthday yesterday. It felt odd making plans that only included me, and me only. To celebrate I therefore made it a solitary affair. After thinking about inviting people over, as I used to do just to get some visitors in the house for Dean, I nixed the idea and opted for spending the day alone. It just felt so good to stay home, relax my always-tired bones (or maybe I should say lungs), and ignore my "to-do" list.

People have regularly been asking how I'm doing since Dean's passing. That is a really difficult thing to answer. If I say great, am I being callous? If I say not so great, am I being weak? I understand the question is posed by friends who are truly concerned about me and want to convey that they really do care, and I do my best to acknowledge their inquiries and answer the best I can at the time. In truth though, my emotions are rather sketchy these days. Perhaps it's good that they ask, so I can take a little self inventory and make sure I am on the path of mental good health, and not headed for a sinkhole of depression.

Today and a few other times though I was confronted by a different kind of response to Dean's passing. It wasn't in the form of a question, which relieved me of the task of an impromptu self-inspection. This neighbor of mine simply stated how much she missed seeing Dean sitting out on the swing in our front yard, greeting all the passersby with a wave or an invitation to chat. This simple acknowledgement of someone else missing my man really warmed my heart. It validated the many times I have felt a sudden gush of emotion when I remember something about Dean that I miss.

Without realizing it, my neighbor had turned a sympathetic, caring comment into an empathetic, supportive acknowledgment. I must remember her approach when confronted with others in the throes of grief. It was simple enough in practice, but the concept was pure genius.

From now on, I'll not be afraid to address someone's ugly emotions directly. But will let it be known that I feel their pain as well--never exactly, but at least to some extent. As a fellow human, we can only carry someone's load with them, not for them. Only God can lift that burden from their shoulders. But we can reduce its weight by lifting it together.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Keeping Busy

These last few weeks, since Dean's memorial service, have left me feeling rather empty, confused, emotional, and definitely more alone in the world. I have filled it with as much sorting and de-cluttering of my house as my lungs will permit.

This involves re-arranging my living quarters so that I feel more comfortable, like buying a twin bed and turning my office into my bedroom. It's a challenge though to make these kinds of major changes, which I was never permitted to do because of Dean's dementia. I struggle now with wanting to change my surroundings so they are fresh and attractive, but also wanting to keep things just as they always were, this time so I will be reminded of Dean when I see them.

I read in a magazine article today that this kind of de-cluttering might be called "Swedish death cleaning". It's done for the purpose of relieving your loved ones of the frightful task of sorting and tossing your possessions when you are gone. Truth be told, part of my emotional state has probably been from a sinking feeling that with my spouse gone, I am next in line. As I make my decisions of whether or not to keep or toss our belongings, I think of the work I would be leaving my only daughter if I leave too much behind for her.

I'm rather frightened of what my next project will be in life after all this "cleaning" is done. I've spent hours planning Dean's memorial, and now organizing things in the house. It comforting to know that I will always have my writing to fall back on. Well, I say "always", but there are, of course, no guarantees in life.

My life is in God's hands totally. The peace of mind this thought brings helps validate why I'm still here and my husband isn't. I know I will see Dean soon, when Jesus comes in the clouds for both of us. He has not preceded me. He's just resting in peace. In the twinkling of an eye for him, I'll join Dean on that trip to our heavenly home to be with our Lord and Savior forever.

Dean in his twenties--How I'll see him at the resurrection!
"...and every eye shall see Him..." Revelation 1:7

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Remembering the Memorial

Nearly a month has gone by since Dean's passing. We just had his memorial service at church this past weekend. We couldn't afford anything but the basic cremation, but I was happy to be able to organize the program myself. It was a soul-searching, emotional ride of trying to condense my husband's life into a mere hour, but I think it came off very well.

It felt good to do this final thing for him. Dean had a legacy of being a Spirit-driven Christian man. I merely wanted to share it with as many people as I could to cap off the life of the man who had captured my heart forty-five years ago. Dementia has a way of hiding our best qualities, but I wanted to flesh out his entire life for those who have only known him since his brain injury.

I know I was blessed by the program, and I hope others were as well. From the visitation that occurred after it was over, I believe it served the purpose I had in mind. Which was not to glorify Dean as a person, but to show what it means to cling to God, despite all the challenges life throws at you.

The speakers, who shared about Dean, all had the same theme of what a blessing he was to so many people. And this was all after his disabling tractor accident 19 years ago. It's just amazing how God can turn our worst tragedies into our greatest blessings, if we will let Him take control of our life and use us to serve others.

I'm not sure I'll have much to blog about now that Dean is gone. But I intend to continue my efforts to support other caregivers. I've always wondered what it would feel like when fate would take the role of caregiver from me. But I now see that caregiving, in any capacity and for any amount of time, makes permanent changes to your heart. I now have more time to contemplate and enhance the work that God has done on my heart through caregiving. I guess, in truth, I'll always be one.

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.