The following post I wrote nearly two months ago…but because it was so fresh, I chose not to post it. Since then I’ve been learning what it means to be PRESENT even when I’m no longer Ms. Mary’s primary caregiver. Even that requires Persistence.
It’s a hard thing to fall and then get up and try again. Painful. Challenging. Like trudging through molasses to get somewhere. There are days I want to quit because life beats me up and it’s easy to lose the wind in my sails. When everything seems to be coming at me full force and I can’t get out from under the chaos.
I’ve had one of those weeks. Adventure isn’t always peaches and cream, I’m learning. When I choose Jesus as my Guide it more often than not means struggle and rainy days and hard questions and mountain climbing when I really don’t know what I’m doing. It means looking into the face of change and smiling because He knows what He’s doing even when I’m incapable and scared. It means persistence. Pushing through the clouds and clinging to what He wants for my life even when it doesn’t always make sense.
Change is a common visitor in my life. I’m not friendly with him, but he seems to show up anyway. Sometimes he shows up during beautiful times like when I get a new niece or nephew or one of my friends get married. Other times, he shows up when I’d rather him not. These past several days have been “one of those times”. Caregiving hasn’t ever been my dream…but it seems to follow me. My sister and I have been taking care of a 98-year-old lady for the past nine months who has been like a local great-grandma to us. She has dementia and severe arthritis and could no longer be at home alone. It started slow…just nights and an occasional pop in. Then it progressed to more and more as her circumstances worsened.
Over the past three weeks, it’s went downhill fast. These past ten days have been long. Short nights with little to no sleep and long days of care. If I’m honest, I’ve even felt a little stir-crazy. It’s been a long road. The reality is, we can’t keep up the pace. There’s only two of us and we honestly can’t do it all. There aren’t many options for those of us who live in the middle of nowhere, so her family opted for a nursing home. I cried. Not because I was in disagreement, but because I wanted to see it through. I wanted to walk her to heaven’s door and for it all to tie up neatly and be done. Closure. A little part of me felt like I was abandoning my mission before it was complete.
We called the ambulance after a long day of battling side effects from her new meds last Tuesday. I saw it in her eyes…she wasn’t right and I knew I couldn’t help her anymore. My sister stood there and said what I was too afraid to think…we needed to call for help. Sisters are good for tough moments like that. In the back of my mind I wanted to deny it, because a little piece of me knew it might be the end. It would mean change and I felt like the fight had been already whipped out of me.
I knelt next to her worn out recliner and held her hand as the First Responders and EMTs asked a million questions. Date of birth. Medications. Food. Medical history. A slight daze settled on my brain, the sleepless nights and emotional roller coaster was catching up with me. Charity righted my ship a few times…helping fill in the blanks.
Since I’m the primary caregiver, they told me I could ride in the ambulance to the hospital with her. As I could feel all the hurt and angst come floating to the top. Half way through the trip, the emotions overwhelmed me and in an effort to stifle the tears, I sighed a deep, heavy sigh. The driver turned to me and said, “We are almost there”, as if I was only tired of the drive. Inside I felt like screaming for help. The weight on my chest was all too familiar.
How do you push through the fog when you don’t even know what direction you’re facing? What do you do when the circumstances of our fallen, wicked world knock you down? I’ll admit…more than once I’ve just stayed laying there for too long.
Then there’s persistence. Determination gets up and begins again. Even if it means starting over. Even if it means getting a new mission. Even if it means re-evaluating our approach and tweaking your presentation.
I stayed at the hospital until nearly 2am…answering round after round of questions from nurses and doctors about some of the same things again. I crashed when I got home…weary in body, soul, and spirit.
The next morning, I cleaned up her house (I’ve been living there full-time for the past week or so), canceled her hair appointment, and tried to catch up on some long-overdue projects at home. I was waiting for the call that she was coming home so I could resume my post as caregiver.
The phone call wasn’t what I expected. She’s not coming home.
Instead, I heard she has kidney failure. She had slept the whole day without pain meds and hadn’t eaten or drank anything. My mind was having flashbacks …these signs were like red flags waving in the wind and shouting at me. I’ve been here before and somehow, it feels both different and strangely familiar.
The feeling I felt was failure. Why couldn’t I walk her to heaven’s door? I wanted to be there for her…to hold her hand and walk with her through the valley. What if she gets scared? What if she can’t see anyone she recognizes in the dementia fog?
So now I stand at the door of change again. Wondering—all this time I suddenly have back—what if I don’t want it? What if I’d rather be giving meds and applesauce or changing adult diapers and smiling when she told me unbelievable stories about her “visitors” that she can see and I can’t? What if I’d rather everything just stay the same?
Persistence and determination are amazing virtues…but I feel like the fight has been knocked out of me. I want to be faithful. I want to stand firm. I want to be trustworthy and loyal to my Captain. I’ve also found that He walks through some rough country to get to where we are going…and I feel weary and tired and emotional and sad. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Then I see the nest.
Often, God speaks to me through word pictures…apparently, I learn that way. My brother had parked his Jeep in the driveway and I noticed that a bird had built a nest in one of the headlights. He drove it one day, pulling the nest out before he left. The next day, the bird built another nest. The 2nd nest was removed and by the next day it was built again. This went on for days. Six nests later, I was wondering how long it would take this bird to get the point. The odds were against it.
What would it take for you to love difficult people? How many times will you walk through sorrow and choose to love again? How many times will I be willing to say YES to being a caregiver?
Today, I want to be done with caregiving. It’s too hard. Painful.
Then I see that nest…and I wonder. How much am I willing to risk? Couldn’t I be a little more persistent, patient and enduring? I’ll keep building…time and again…knowing that Jesus will hold me together.