Monday, March 12, 2018

Leave No One Behind

It was another one of those calls.

My elderly father had just had another serious medical "event," resulting in CPR and an ambulance ride to the hospital. I needed to go be with him and my stepmother.

I opened a drawer in the early morning semi-darkness and grabbed a pair of jeans. I dressed quickly and quietly, trying not to disturb my sleeping husband. I pulled on the nearest pair of socks and my most comfortable shoes, not knowing how long I would be at the hospital.

I pretty much lived in those jeans for the next few days.

One day, during a conference with the medical team caring for Dad, I suddenly became aware that my jeans felt short. I looked down and saw red deck stain blotches on the front of the denim. Then came the moment of realization: I had pulled out a pair of old denim capris that I wore last summer for painting projects outside. As a finishing touch, the cuffs had come unrolled, hitting just above the ugly black socks that stuck out of my tennis shoes.


The worst part is that I didn't even care. My husband and I are already caregivers for a quadriplegic son. I take care of all of the nursing needs, and my husband stays up all night, every night, to ensure that our son is safe while he sleeps on the ventilator.

I have lots of days that are fashion fails. Caregiving is our life, our normal. We have done it for over two decades and are happy to do it. But it leaves little strength or emotional energy for anything else.

And 2017 was full of anything else. Health issues with my father and stepmother dominated the summer months, along with their major move to a new home closer to family and medical care. Our daughter was hit in two separate auto incidents that were determined not to be her fault. The second one totaled her car.

Then December hit with a vengeance. 

Our son developed two infections, and it took all our strength to keep him out of the hospital. Just as he began to recover, Dad passed out in -conveniently- the doctor's office. He was revived with CPR on the floor of the examination room and taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was admitted for observation, and we began the familiar juggling act to keep everything going at home and staying by my dad and step-mom's side. Our daughter navigated caregiving, a job change, and her own health issues.

Then, as the old year closed and a new year dawned, new and darker challenges assaulted us.

Here we are, in March, still deep in trial and work and sorrow. I cling to hope, believing against the crush of circumstances that God will deliver us as He always has. But these trials have reminded me in a profound way that I will not make it without Him. This old warrior is tired.

This is the reality of caregiving. 

If you're a caregiver, you probably walk a similar path. Sometimes it's a smooth, blessing-filled journey. Other times, it's all-out war, a battlefield filled with smoke and blood and the weeping of the wounded. This is the place where fashion fails and platitudes and casual Christianity are meaningless. Here the offers of prayers are taken seriously, where a simple act of kindness can literally help save a life.

Here, nothing much matters except to see the Deliverer coming over the horizon.

If you're a caregiver today, remember that your service to your loved one and to God is a sacred sacrifice. It's not a glamorous job, but it's a vital one. If you can relate to anything I'm feeling on any particular day, remember you are not alone. In fact, we're not meant to do this alone. Send me your prayer requests, and I will pray for you.

Caregiving is an often lonely job. But collectively we are the army that surrounds and encourages those who fight for others. Let's make sure no one is left alone on the fields of faith to struggle alone. The soul of any nation rests on how it treats its most vulnerable, both those who are wounded and those who care for them.

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