Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Invisible Man: When We're Feeling Alone

Their faces smile back at me from the Facebook page. They're posing for the camera at a local restaurant. They swam and laughed at the annual "Chicks in the Sticks" camp-out. They're planning a girls' trip to the coast. Events at which I wasn't invited and knew nothing about.

Things I used to do before I became a full-time caregiver and an invisible (wo)man.

Not that I could do any of those things, anyway. My job doesn't come with vacation time. My husband, youngest daughter, and I carry the duties of caring for my quadriplegic son largely without respite. Our other children help whenever they can, but the day-to-day responsibilities are ours.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my job. I love caring for our son. The gains far exceed any sacrifices we've had to make along the way. Since my son's accident seventeen years ago, I've become a certified nurses' aide and then a licensed practical nurse. I've written two books. I speak regularly to others about God's work in our lives. My life is busy and fulfilling.

But sometimes, I see the abandon with which others do things that would take days of planning for me, things which are totally impossible for us now. They all look so carefree. So abundantly full of time and energy and each other.

So totally out of my reach.

Recently my children arranged a rare two-day outing for my husband and I to celebrate our anniversary. As we took in the sights of a nearby city, we saw vacationing families everywhere. People with boats and cabins and time on their hands. I asked my husband, the one who stays up every night to watch over our son as he sleeps on the ventilator, if it bothered him that we didn't have the lives of most people our age. I knew how much he used to look forward to retirement and a chance to travel the country.

He turned to me with a smile and said, "No, I don't. You and are doing something together that is important for our son and for God."


How could I forget that Facebook and television and the world I see around me aren't the true reality, but snapshots of lives suffering their own hardships? Everyone feels alone at times.

"Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else."
-Galatians 6:4 NIV

While it's true that caregivers often work alone and behind the scenes, we aren't really invisible. We're the point men in a fierce battle for the lives of those who are vulnerable, disabled, or ill. We give hope to the living and comfort to the dying.

Yes, it can be a lonely job. But we're never invisible. At least not to the ones for whom we care and with whom we walk side-by-side.

And to the God who has called us to this wonderful journey.

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