Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest Writer: Linda Brendle

Bearing the pain of others | by Linda Brendle

My goal in life was not to become a caregiver. However, when my loved ones had a need, I stepped in to help.

Whether by small increments as the need progresses, or suddenly because of a catastrophic event, many of us become caregivers regardless of our intentions. Those of us who have been drafted into such a role, in searching for some meaning, often lean on Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

There is comfort in Paul’s words, but when you find yourself in the middle of hardship, it’s difficult to see how even God can find any good in your circumstances. As I watched Mom and Dad slip away into the abyss of dementia, I knew there was nothing good about Alzheimer’s. Still, through my experiences, God worked for my good and His purposes.

One good thing God did was to teach me the real meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 which says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

For most of my life, I found security in control. The need for control increased as I cared for Mom and Dad. I developed what I believe is a common, if often subconscious and always misguided, belief among caregivers that, if I did everything just right, my parents would get well. While this might be the case with some illnesses or injuries, it is not the case with Alzheimer’s. I soon learned that I had no control over anything. For a co-dependent like me, letting go of the reins, even if they were connected to nothing, was a terrifying thing. However, God understood, and He worked for my good and His purposes in all things in my life – even in caregiving and Alzheimer’s.

Another good thing that came out of my caregiving experience is that I have a story to share. “Story” is the modern word for what we used to call testimony, but whatever you call it, God can use your story when you share it.

Becoming an author was not one of my life goals either, but after I became a caregiver, I often sought advice from Aunt Fay. She had cared for both her mother and her husband, and one thing she advised was to keep a journal, because one day my experiences might be of help to someone else. I wrote sporadically, mainly after a particularly trying day, but when we planned an epic RV trip, I decided to keep a daily journal. That journal eventually became my book which is titled A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos. Here’s a brief look at what the book is about.

“Sometimes, reality really bites. Alzheimer’s has wrapped Mom’s brain into knots; vascular dementia has attacked Dad, and instead of carefree retirees, we have become caregivers. Regardless, dreams die hard, and we somehow stumbled into the purchase of a forty-foot motor home. That’s when all four of us set out on this seven-week trek across sixteen U.S. states. Now, Dad stopped up the toilet again, Mom wet her last pair of clean jeans, and David just announced he was hungry. My head is beginning to pound, and I know this isn’t going to be the easygoing retirement we imagined for ourselves.”

Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving.

At its simplest level, my book is an entertaining story. My somewhat skewed perspective on life sometimes makes people laugh, so I intentionally included as much humor as possible. When going through the valleys, you have to laugh whenever you can. Solomon said, A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Generally speaking, dry bones don’t make very good caregivers.

At a deeper level my book offers caregivers the comfort of knowing they’re not alone. It also gives them the permission to share their own story and to admit that caregiving is hard. Even Moses couldn’t carry the burden of the children of Israel alone. During the battle against Amalek, Moses’ arms grew tired, so Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and supported his arms. Without their help, the Israelites would have lost the battle. In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us to Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. People can’t help you bear your burdens if you don’t share them, and someone who is watching you may be reluctant to share her burdens if she thinks you have none.

At a third level my book encourages caregivers to take care of themselves and to continue to have a life of their own. It also offers the hope that, with God’s help, life can go on in spite of whatever trial you are facing.

In Joel 2:25 God makes this promise to the Israelites: I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten. While this was a specific promise to a specific group of people, I believe we can apply the principal to our lives today. That principal gave me hope that there would be life after caregiving, but in order for there to be life after caregiving, you have to live through it. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first, and you have to maintain a life of your own.

When we are in the middle of hardship, it’s difficult to see what possible good even God can bring out of our situation. Paul gives us clues as to what a couple of those purposes might be.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Ephesians 2:10  

Ravi Zacharias once asked a group of church leaders this question: What portion of the world’s pain has God called you to bear? I don’t believe that God gave Mom Alzheimer’s, but I believe, in His sovereignty, He prepared me to care for her and to help bear her pain. He also prepared me to share my story and to help bear the pain of other caregivers.

When God shows you what work he has prepared for you to do and what portion of the world’s pain He has called you to bear, remember to lean on God rather than your own understanding. Then, share your story and help comfort someone with the comfort you have received from God.

About Linda:

After fifteen years as a family caregiver, Linda began writing to encourage, inspire and amuse other caregivers. She loves to travel and since retiring has traveled mostly by motorcycle and RV. She and her husband live in a small East Texas town where she gardens, writes, and works as part-time secretary for her church.

Find Linda at:

Author Video (Tour of RV):