What Caregivers Know and You Can Know Too

Mama thrilled my heart twice today!

First when I arrived, I checked in on Mom and gave her a drink. As I was leaving to get lunch, Mama said, “Don’t fall down.” And it so warmed my heart. It sounded like such a motherly thing to say, and I feel short on mothering these days.

And then later, as I was feeding Mama lunch, she looked right into my eyes and said, “I like you.” And oh, I can’t tell you how that fed my soul! Even just to have her look right in my eyes is getting harder to come by these days. She most often stares off into space or at pictures on the wall. So to have her look right at me, right into my eyes, is a blessing. And to have her say, “I like you,” at the same time is a victory!

I thought at the time, I can’t wait to share this. Followed by the thought, Will anyone “get” it? Doesn’t it just sound trivial to most people? Or maybe even sad?

But as I contemplated it I quickly concluded that my fellow caregivers will totally understand what I’m saying. And I know they will rejoice with me. And the ones who have traveled this road before me will “get it”. Completely. No doubt. And they will remember their own victory moments. And they will send me a heart high-five!

Because caregivers know, as no others can, how precious and meaningful a simple sentence can be. They know the deep feelings that can come with a look or a touch. They know how priceless a word can be. They know what a trophy a smile can be.

10806422_10205574326864092_3920863732368411086_n (1)

Caregivers, nurses, hospice workers and aides are in the thick of the battle.They are pouring their hearts and souls and lives out to meet the needs of others. They aren’t sitting on the bench. They are in the game.

And it’s tough and it’s hard and it can be grueling. But I want to encourage any benchwarmers out there by saying this; you miss the bumps and the agonies and the pain when you sit on the sidelines. But you miss the depth of the joys too.

Don’t tell yourself it’s too hard and that you can’t do it. Don’t stay away from your loved one who has dementia, or any illness for that matter, because it’s too hard for you to bear. Don’t say, “I don’t want to see them that way. I want to remember them the way they were.”

Press through that. Take a deep breath. Pray. Trust God to give you the grace and strength to handle it and plunge in. Make that call. Make that visit before it’s too late. And if the visit is horrible and you leave crying, don’t quit. Go back again in a few days, or a week. Keep trying!

Bring a flower. Bring a cookie. Bring a card or a song or a dog. Just bring yourself and show up and be there. Maybe you’re loved one doesn’t know you at all. I know it’s hard. But the important thing is that you know them. So show that you do. And make some memories for yourself. Before it’s too late.

Do it now. Pour out some love today. Someday you won’t have the chance anymore and you’ll regret it.

Brush her hair. Hold his hand. Sing a song. If he is still mobile take him for a drive or walk. Look at pictures together. Talk about whatever they’re still able to talk about if they can still talk. Share your own life with them if they can’t.

Bring a meal. Mow a lawn. Fix a drip. Wash some clothes. If you’re bedridden or housebound, be a prayer warrior. You can change lives that way! You know what you’re able to do. Look for a need you can fill, and do it.

Press through the fear and the sorrow. Press through! You can do it! With God’s help you can certainly do it!

Be open to the pain and hurt of being there through the hard stuff. Yes, it will be painful. Yes, it will wrench your heart. But you will never know the elation of the victory moments, if you don’t go through the pain. The wins are never as sweet for the benchwarmers. The spectators can’t feel the same elation as the players. The onlookers at the marathon don’t win the medals.

There is someone in your life now who could use a visit. There is someone you could show love to. Press through and do it. You won’t regret giving love. You may deeply regret missing your chance.

Be strong and brave and do it. Maybe this is the day your dear one will look in your eyes and say, “I like you.” Or even “I love you.” Maybe this is the day they will know your name. What if it’s the last day they do? Please don’t miss it.

And as Mama said today, “Don’t fall down.” This is your opportunity. Don’t fall. Don’t fail. Stand up and be part of the team.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a (NKJV)

10606547_10205574326544084_6294013247350627621_n

My daughter, Annie, pictured here with my mom, her grandma. Annie is an amazing caregiver!

How Different Would Life Look if Everyone Did Their Part

Sometimes life is heavy. And though I cherish time with my Mama, I wonder if I’m really doing what God has called me to do.

I was reading today in Acts 13:2 and God clearly called out Barnabas and Saul and told the church to separate them to Him and send them off on mission work.

And sometimes I envy that a bit. Because my mission doesn’t feel very adventurous and I’m just trying to figure out what ways to serve in my church and how to find time to bring a meal to a new mom as I juggle helping care for my mother with Alzheimer’s and my mother-in-law with dementia.

And it’s not very glamorous. Or exciting. And often it is just plain hard work.

I was praying about it the other day and I randomly opened my Bible and it “happened” to open to I Timothy 5. And I read, “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable to God.”

And then in verse eight, of the same chapter, I read, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Wow! These are strong words! From God’s Word.

God IS calling me to care for my mother and mother-in-law. This is a responsibility He has given me, and really all believers.

It may look different for everyone. Some people live far from family. But that doesn’t excuse Christ-followers from making provision for parents and grandparents who need help.

It is our God-given job. And everyone can do their part, even if those parts look quite different from one another.

And it makes me wonder.

I wonder how loved and cherished aging parents would feel if each of their children and grandchildren did everything they could to meet the needs of their elders.

I wonder how many phone calls and meals would be shared. I wonder how many spirits would be lifted with cards, flowers, letters and gifts. I wonder how many songs would be sung together and ring cheer into hearts.

I wonder how clean houses would be and how lovely yards and gardens would be. I wonder how many errands would be cheerfully run and how many repairs would be promptly finished.

I wonder how many stories of the old days would be shared. And how many home-cooked goodies would be relished. I wonder how many puzzles and games would be enjoyed together and how much laughter would fill the rooms.

I wonder how many prayers would be lifted up together to our Lord. And how many wrinkled hands would be held tenderly by younger hands.

I wonder how excellent personal cares would be, and how comfortable and well fed every bed or wheel-chair-bound person would be.

I wonder how many loving hugs would bring tears. And how many conversations would build up faith and courage.

I wonder how many blessings would be poured down from Heaven.

If everyone did their part.

Because God is watching. And He sees the sacrificial love given by some.

And He sees the neglect and loneliness and unmet needs that wouldn’t have to be there. If everyone did their part.

Sometimes I struggle with my own attitudes and feel like it’s all too much. But this is the mission in my life right now. And I know I don’t do all I could do. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will direct me and help me so that I’ll make better use of my time for His purposes, in this season of precious ministry.

Because life isn’t all about personal pleasure or comfort, though God often blesses us with both. Life is about loving God and others. And that is where the real joy and fulfillment is anyway.

It reminds me of a quote from Mother Theresa…

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right where you are—in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools…You can find Calcutta all over the world if you have eyes to see…”

Sometimes life is heavy. But I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. And I’m thankful for the grace and strength and blessings He gives for this mission.