Friday, September 8, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: When Short Becomes Long


(If you're new to these stories, there are a few links below to get you caught up.)

Ryan (my son), family, friends, the farm, animals, ministry, writing. Life was busy and fun and full to overflowing. I needed to slow down some, even I will admit that, but I thought life was just about perfect.

And then...

Jamie, Sam's wife died two years ago and his slow decline in health turned into a rapid plummet downward. The speed and severity stunned me. 

On June 26th, 2017, when Sam moved to my house, I assessed his situation. He was so near death that I doubted he could live more than a few weeks. That's how bad it was. 

As a physician, I can only formulate a prognosis based on the situation at the moment. I couldn't imagine the difference love and personal care could make. It's been shocking.

My dining room is now Sam's "suite." He gets three meals a day, plenty of protein, and he no longer has to manage the affairs of daily life. 

He's thrived. He's gained enough weight that his pants no longer fall down without a belt. His waistbands are getting snug. He smiles more. Jokes some. Says thank you. Sam loves this new life of his, partly because it's relieved so many burdens. 

I haven't found it quite so easy. I'm up almost every night at least once, and usually twice (or more) to help him. I'm preparing more meals than I ever dreamed I'd prepare, and planning my schedule around an elderly neighbor who requires a major undertaking to transport outside my home. Because he's in my dining room, and he rises late and retires early, moving around my house has been sharply altered, as have my routines.

Can I be honest here? I love Sam, but I don't love getting up in the middle of the night, emptying potty chairs, or lifting a wheelchair in and out of my truck. I don't love that, because I can't leave him behind, I rarely have more than a few minutes to myself. 

Who would?

I don't love that I can't make a spontaneous trip or just dash to the grocery. Even a trip to the feed store, which I'll make today, will begin by getting Sam dressed, fed, and ready, loading him into the wheelchair, transferring him to the truck, lifting the wheelchair partly over my head, and putting it in the truck. I'll do it all again in reverse to get him in the store, make my feed purchase, then repeat to get him back in the truck. When we get home, I'll do the unload one more time. Finally, I'll go to the barn to unload the feed and put it in bins.

When I'm done, I'll get back to my "real" work, because I'm still working full-time from home. 

It's huge to me, but there are thousands of people giving care in their homes everyday. They do the same things I do, and without complaint. They're just as tired.

I say all that to tell you I've had an epiphany this week. Sam's health has improved. He's very frail but I've stopped checking to see if he's still breathing. He requires intense and personal around-the-clock care, but he can move his own legs into the bed now. 

He's dying, but he's not likely to die in the next day or two. Or the next week or two.

I've come to terms with the reality that this short-term-mission trip has turned into a long-term one. It's not going to be over any time soon.

Last night, Sam flipped through channels, trying to find Wheel of Fortune. He was completely disgusted that football had replaced Wheel. I roamed back and forth, doing chores. I paused to help him with the remote and realized something huge. 

I'm going to make it through.  

We've reached a kind of routine that, though hard, is manageable. I'm not in this alone. People have given helped when I've needed it. God has answered every prayer. There's been a provision for every need and, when a new need arises, there'll be a provision for that, too.

Intense caregiving for my neighbor wasn't my plan for this stage of life, but I've surrendered to God's plan. There's more than enough peace to see me through. More than enough strength. More than enough love.

No matter what you face, you, too, can find this same peace, strength, and love. You, too, can have joy in the midst of a hard time. The linchpin is surrender to God's plan and His ways. When we allow Him to direct our paths, He does more than we can imagine to help us through.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6 
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If you're new to this series, here are links that might be helpful: Keeping My Word and When the Time to Move Finally Comes

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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The High Maintenance Missionary and the Forgotten Anniversary
If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.