Monday, May 27, 2013

Real Flowers for Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. I feel some guilt that I didn't go just 50 miles away to decorate my parents' graves. But knowing them as I did, they wouldn't mind too much. They would understand my reasons.

Dad always gave me a little gas money when I came to visit or to help them, so I know he would understand my lack of funds. And Mom, being blind, did not need flowers on her grave. The sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees would be enough for her enjoyment. She relied on memories and would endorse my remembrance of them, rather than my actual presence.

I felt closer to them by going through some of their belongings this weekend. Yes, there are still some boxes of paperwork from their house that needed my attention. It was nice to see these remnants of their life, even though the sorting was at times painful.

Instead of needing flowers on their grave, I have flowers in my yard that come up every year and remind me of them. Just as these perennials come up after lying dormant in the ground for winter, Mom and Dad are lying in wait for that glorious resurrection Morning when Jesus breaks through the sky and comes back to take us all home with Him.

from Mom, iris bulbs that came from her yard

we planted geraniums for the sides of the swing (their custom--as a matter of fact, it's their swing!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Gift of Hope

Yesterday I went to a great support group for Alzheimer's and dementia. I knew the facilitator of the group and she asked me to talk about caregiving. We did discuss many aspects of caregiving, such as how it has changed over the last generation or two, what some of our common problems are, what feelings all caregivers share, and how to recognize signs of burnout and prevent it.

I was a bit more nervous about presenting to this group of seasoned caregivers. It was quite unlike the group of mixed, women caregivers at the women's retreat last fall. I pressed for more discussion this time, instead of waiting for questions at the end. So they actually carried the show and it went very well. Everyone had something to contribute--ideas and examples that spoke for themselves.

One thing I did notice though was how easy it was to veer off the topic of caregivers and start talking about our care recipients. They just were welded into the equation and you couldn't really separate the two. We exist because of them. The feelings and burdens we have are directly tied in to the persons we care for.

And there's nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that's what makes family caregivers such good ones. We already have a bond with these individuals, which makes our loads easier to bear.

I'm sure God's sacrifice for us was made easier because of the tremendous love He has for His created beings. There was a close bond between us from the moment He breathed into Adam the breath of life. We should not wonder at the lengths God, the Father, would go through to not only save us, but to care for us from day to day.

Sure, God can't make everything smooth and happy for us all the time now--just as we can't make everything pleasant for the loved ones we care for. But God has made promises for our future--a future so bright, it's beyond our imagination. And isn't that the best gift we can give and have as caregivers? The gift of hope.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Energy for the Walk

Dean had a gloriously wonderful time last Friday on the Senior One-Mile Walk. We got to our designated meeting place with Pastor Andy, but I neglected to remember how close it was to the bakery. I turned my head briefly and Dean was in the shop, ordering himself a pastry. He offered to share with me, and I readily agreed, mostly to lighten the damage for him.

Isn't that what God is all about? He shares our fate, by allowing His Son's cruel death on the cross. Anything to lighten our burden. Thank you, God, for being the Ultimate Caregiver.

I watch our calories. Dean consumes them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Walking a Mile in His Shoes

I should have known last week, when Dean insisted on buying himself a pair of tennis shoes, that he was serious about the annual one-mile Walk for Seniors that he signed up for. I've known for awhile that his chore provider, who told us about the walk, and who has been encouraging him to walk and exercise in preparation for it, would not be able to accompany him next Friday, the day of the Walk. And I also knew that our daughter babysits on Friday and would not be able to be his "walking buddy".

Since I'm his "buddy" for so much of life already, I just assumed that it would fall on me to be with him that day. For weeks, I've pictured myself walking by his side, looking for obstacles that he might trip on, making sure he didn't get confused about where he was or how many laps he'd taken, and being there to calm him down if he got frustrated about anything.

All of that I'm pretty good at. But then it dawned on me that the one thing I'm not good at is WALKING A MILE! Even though we'd be going at a snail's pace, I'd be out of breath after the first 30 seconds of walking. I shudder to think how winded I'd be at the end, even with my portable oxygen tank. It would look like I'd just run a 25-mi. marathon without stopping.

So, I broke down a few days ago and asked for help, something we caregivers are most reluctant to do. One of our pastors readily agreed to accompany Dean on the Walk. It's such a relief to know that Dean will be in able hands that day. I can kick back and enjoy the morning. I have to admit I was not looking forward to the dreaded task of walking with him.

Someone else has promised me much needed rest too, a time to kick back. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He says to take His yoke. Of course, I can't do that without putting my own yokes and burdens down first. Lord, help me not hesitate to take you up on this offer for help. I need to quit thinking it all depends on me, when actually none of it does. It's your yoke I want to wear. Mine is much too heavy. I get out of breath just thinking about it!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sleepless Nights

Some nights I have a hard time sleeping, and there are other nights when Dean can't sleep. There seems to be a change though after thirty-plus years of marriage. We don't usually keep each other awake when this happens. I can turn my light on to read, get up several times, but Dean doesn't skip a snore. And likewise, he can have trouble sleeping and go out to the living room recliner for several hours before I even know he's gone from bed.

There was one period that I was super vigilant about his getting up in the middle of the night here recently though, and that's when he was having a hard time on one of his medicines and had a lot of mental confusion and vivid dreams. As much as it took away from my sleep, I was usually able to wake up several times when he did in the night, wanting to be there to reassure him and let him know that "it was just a dream." It reminded me of parents when there's a new baby in the house. Suddenly young adults, who could sleep through a tornado siren, can hear their baby's slightest whimper.

I got to wondering if God isn't like that with us. How close and attuned He is to us when we're the most needy. Even though I'd like to think that God is intimately close all the time, I think He has the ability to make that relationship even more rich and comforting, when we're in our darkest hours. No matter what happens, no matter how hard life gets, God can be trusted to be there for us, assuring us that "it's just for a little while."