There have been several posts dancing around in my head over the past couple of weeks but I have been short on the time to put them coherently into a thought, much less a complete post. Hopefully I can combine them here.
Whenever I do a service for my in-laws (like deliver medicine or take them to an appointment) because they are such wonderful people, they thank me proficiently. They take nothing for granted–ever. Similarly, I have had conversations with nurses at the Cancer Care center who remark how lucky they are to have me..that what I do is really unusual. Both of these things make me really uncomfortable. I do not want to be thanked because what I do seems as natural as breathing; I could not imagine anything else. I do not want others to see me as really wonderful, because I’m not–I’m just a sinner and fellow struggler like everyone else.
Recently, God has begun to bring light and clarity to how things really are. Indeed, I am not really wonderful or worthy of profound thanks; because it is not me but God who has been at work all this time. My love isn’t any deeper or my heart any purer than anyone else’s facing the issue of elder care…indeed I echo the Apostle Paul and say less so! But God has been at work all this time. He was the One who situated us uniquely to live in separate houses but within feet of each other; so that each family may keep their autonomy while allowing me to be involved in their daily care on a level I can only describe as fluid. He was the One at work, instilling in John and my hearts a desire for me to be an at-home mom long before we even met one another. He was the One who called us as a family to a life of homeschooling, bringing our last child home from public school just before we learned of his parents’ health conditions. Without the freedom that homeschooling allows, I know that Gabe and Nathan could not have taken such good care of their grandparents, shoveling snow covered sidewalks or doing odd jobs. I know that being confined by the public school’s schedule would have limited my care (and severely added to my stress level) needing to be home by a certain time to meet the bus.
And the grace! the grace! God in His mercy has abundantly lavished His grace on me. There is no way I could manage all the responsibilities I have unless it was through His daily, sustaining, all-sufficient grace. There are days when God’s grace is so palpable, that I feel like I’m just along for the ride (and that’s just fine by me!)
So thank me not; it is not me who has been at work, but God working in our lives on their behalf. It is He who deserves the thanks.
I heard her coming down the hall. I’m not sure who designed this particular doctor’s office, but they didn’t have patient confidentiality in mind because I can hear everything that goes on in this office from anywhere in this office. I’ll call her Marion. “I don’t know what he gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey.” Apparently the staff thought this was pretty clever.
As she rounded the corner, I saw her walking with the aid of a walker, her old sunken face with toothless grin, her devoted husband with the same sunken face and toothless grin. She joined me in the waiting room.
“I don’t know what that doctor gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey!” she informed me, flashing me a wide toothless smile. I was immediately filled with love and compassion for this woman…for the struggle she is enduring, for whatever physical infirmaties she has that a morning of relative well-being would fill her with such joy, for a life once lived that was so very different than the life she is now living, for the slow decline into death that she never would wish on anyone else. She turned to me again, “My favorite color is purple!” she informed me.
As I rose to join Mavis in the exam room I was also filled with an acute sense of thankfulness that Mavis was not in the same place as this dear woman. Her memory is failing and she requires my help and support, but mentally she is still very active and engaged. Rather than spending any time or energy dreading that day when my dear mother-in-law will become like Marion, I think instead that I will choose to savor every day that she is still herself.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the time. I don’t know why the Lord didn’t make clear to me what happened until last night when John and I were out to dinner and we were talking.
I had taken Edmund to the pain clinic and we were on the way home. I said “Oh dear, I was supposed to stop by the library and pick up Nathan’s book on the way home.” (I should have taken a different route to do this.)
Immediately, Edmund sat taller and started guiding me through the backstreets of DeKalb until we had reached the library. I had a need and he could meet it. No more was he the tired, haggard old man dozing off in the front seat. He was for that brief moment his old self again, speaking kindly but authoritatively, completely alert, completely in the moment focused on the need at hand instead of his physical condition.
Oh dear Father, burn this picture in my mind. It is a precious jewel, a gift from You. Thank you so much.
This is not the death I would have chosen for my father-in-law. If I had chosen, Edmund would pass away quietly in his sleep after his 125th birthday. As I look back on the 14+ months, he has lost many things to cancer. He has lost several inches of height as the cancer has stolen his bone cells. He has lost his comfort and sense of well-being as every day has been marked by pain, nausea, fatigue, depression, or some combination thereof. He has lost his social interaction and no longer does any of the activities he used to enjoy.
As I was thinking about these things, the Lord encouraged me by reminding me that He Himself will restore all that Edmund has lost to cancer in heaven. Please understand I am not anxious for him to die. Even now, acutely aware of how much he suffers in life, I know how painful it will be when the Lord brings him Home. But God is helping to prepare my heart, looking forward to all that Edmund will gain on that day.
God will restore his height and Edmund will walk upright. God will restore his strength and Edmund will walk confidently, rather than shuffle his feet. God will give him a glorified body that is never in pain, never nauseated, never tired. There will be fellowship restored as Edmund meets up with friends and loved ones who have gone before him, but most importantly will be fellowship with Christ himself. O glorious thought!
I confess that we are entering into a harder stage of caregiving. It weighs on my heart that he does not seem to be getting any better, but remembering these things helps to lighten the load in my heart and I am already happy for him.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” ~ 1 Pet. 5:10-11