Monday, August 7, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: How Pro-Life Are We?



How pro-life am I? That's the question I've asked myself a lot lately.

Sam's been in my house for almost two weeks now. A hospital bed, oxygen compressor, and recliner now stand where my dining room was. 

Instead of supper club with food served on my grandmother's silver and china, I serve Boost Plus and soft or pureed food.

Instead of festive tablecloths and napkins, there's a roll of toilet paper tied on the arm of a potty chair with kitchen twine.

Live has changed at Greenbriar Farm. 

Twenty-two months ago, Sam's wife died and I became his caregiver. Almost overnight, I became his housekeeper, bookkeeper, cook, and errand girl. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

We've had amazing support from the body of Christ. People have done everything from mow my grass to feed Sam strawberry shortcake by hand. I couldn't have done it without them.

There've been a few people who've asked why I don't put Sam in a nursing home. "He's not family," they've reminded me. "This is just about too big a job for you." They're right, but...

I'm not opposed to long-term care.  I'm in awe of the way they care for their residents and their efforts to maintain quality of life. They do a very good job of caring for our elders.

The main reason I have Sam in my home is that, if Sam were elsewhere, it would be harder for me to discipline myself to go see him. If I continued my daily routine and added a daily visit at an out-of-the-way facility, it would be more than I could do. 

I know me. 

It wouldn't be my routine that would suffer. It would be Sam. I'd be full of good intentions and, before long, full of excuses, but I wouldn't see Sam every day.

Sam, however, needs daily visits from the people he loves. He's a people-person and he loves a crowd. 

His need matters.

I believe life begins at conception. I'm pro-life and I believe all life is precious.  I believe every life is of inestimable value.

One of the things I'm learning as I care for Sam is that, for me to be truly pro-life, I must be fully pro-life at every stage of life. If the life of the baby in the womb is precious, so is the life of the one who's at the end of days. 

Sam's life is precious...even when he has incontinent accidents, gooey false teeth, can't hear me speak, and it takes all I can do to haul the wheelchair down front in church (without losing it like a runaway train) because he wants to hear the speaker better. 

If I care about an unborn child, I must care equally about an elderly person whose bodily functions are declining, and who can do no more for himself or herself than a newborn babe.  (Sam's not there yet, but we will all be there one day.)

I must care about life from conception until the very end, the last heartbeat, the last breath. 

In this work of caregiving, I'm seeing, in a much deeper way, that we, the church, must move from pre-born pro-life to all-life pro-life, and I'm not sure we're there yet. 

If we were, we'd make a concerted effort to celebrate life at both extremes of age, not just in the womb. 

We'd be more intentional about visiting shut-ins, sending cards and letters to those in long-term care facilities, taking the time to visit, to sit and listen. We'd go out of our way to include our elderly brothers and sisters in Christ on outings, to make sure they can come to worship services as long as possible. 

We'd take the opportunity to learn from those who've experienced so much more of life than we have.

We'd remember our senior adults are family, and we'd treat them as such.

Are we pro-life or not? 

If we are pro-pre-born-life, we must also be pro-end-of-life. I don't mean to imply that we must attempt to prolong life with heroic measures that add nothing to the value or length of life. Instead, we must honor the end of life with time, concern, care, comfort, and presence. 

The question for us today is how pro-life are we? Do we value every season of life? Every age? 

The challenge for today is to line our values up with God's values and take action. 

Does He value gray-haired senior adults? Yes, He does. We, then, should also value them and show that value with our actions. Make a visit. Send a note. Include someone in an outing or a family or church event. 

None of us can do everything, but we can all do something. Let's do our part.

"Do not case me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails." Psalm 71:9 nasb
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