Someone I Don’t Know

Chris CertThis week my social newsfeed has been filled with moving stories similar to my own. Yesterday, one, in particular, pulled on my heartstrings. I found myself crying and praying for someone I don’t even know. I let some of my emotions run out into my devotions for caregivers blog. I kept wondering why I was so emotional for someone I didn’t know – and will likely never know. Tears ran freely as I recalled the first 48 hours of holding our breath and hoping Chris would keep breathing his. All the memories of the long ICU waiting room days and nights ran through my mind. I was reminded and overcome by the emotions from the initial days.

Ironically, as I came to pour out some more of my thoughts here today, I noticed the last title I wrote was called, “forgotten.” I had written it on my son’s birthday earlier this year. I say ironic because of what I came to share today.

Phi Mu Alpha

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia FraternityPhi Mu Alpha is a fraternity my son was a part of. He loved being part of this music fraternity. I recall him talking about things I didn’t really understand like brotherhood. One thing for sure is that he loved it. He loved the concept, the function, the togetherness of it all. After his wreck, I recall a stranger handing me an envelope with a good amount of cash in it to help while Chris was still in ICU. Honestly, I packed away his information including the plaques and certificate of membership. I let it die with the rest of his past as time swept it all away.

But a few months ago I got a PM from someone I didn’t know. He was the Alumni Relations Officer of the Gamma Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha at NSU where my son was a member. He had heard of Chris and felt it was unjust that he was removed from the fraternity for something that was no fault of his own. He was appealing it on Chris’ behalf to see if he could be reinstated into the fraternity.

Today this young man informed me that Chris was back in good standing with the fraternity. The appeal process was long and difficult, but it had been completed and my son’s name is back on the roll.

Someone I Don’t Know

It was just yesterday that I was heartbroken for someone I don’t know. Now, today, someone I don’t know and someone who doesn’t know Chris, but has heard about what a great guy he was, has mended a hurt. It’s interesting how connected we are by those we don’t even know, isn’t it?

I’ve heard we are all connected eventually through circles of influence. Today, the world is a better place because of this young man I may never meet – and all his efforts on behalf of my son whom he may never meet. I must say my heart was touched by someone I don’t know. If we were all kinder. If we could all be less self-focused and outward focused on others – if we treated everyone we don’t even know with respect, how different might this world be?

Today I am grateful. It doesn’t change my fiery journey – but it makes it a bit less cumbersome just to know Chris is not totally forgotten by those who knew him and those who haven’t met him alike.  Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and I think this is a great demonstration of that. It’s a tale of someone who worked diligently to do something for someone else and get absolutely nothing in return. That should touch a heart or two and make the world a better place.

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Forgotten

Chris outsidToday is Chris’ 35th birthday. It’s a difficult day for me. Thoughts swarm my mind as I try to get on his Facebook page to read him his few messages. I see friends who are celebrating new babies, getting married, or seeing the world. Emotions can’t be stopped as I look at his mostly motionless body. My eyes fill with tears as I long to hear his voice again and wish he could tell me at least a little bit of what he’s actually thinking or able to process.

Do I read him those messages? Should I ask his friends to send a video message so he can hear their voices? I’m terrible at impersonations. lol. I notice his pictures on his Facebook page are still the same. Perhaps I should change them to reflect today’s reality. I don’t know.

I do not blame his friends at all for moving on with their lives. They should. No questions there. But it still makes my heart hurt just to see him forgotten. Tossed aside because he cannot contribute to life’s conversation. I really don’t know what, if anything, should or could be changed – just expressing how it feels to be forgotten.

One thing I have begun doing when these types of emotions overwhelm is to think of how I’ve been changed by caregiving for him. See, he’s still my son. I still love him. Actually, I continue to care for him because of that love. He can’t do much for himself but I keep pushing him – one day it might click. He is regaining some muscle control so who knows!

Even though he’s forgotten he still continues to change the world. Maybe some of us become more caring in the face of tragedy. Perhaps a few become more forgiving. There’s no doubt caregiving has changed me. I’m more introverted and less of an extrovert. I won’t go through the list of things I’ve learned about myself or my faith on this journey. It’s vast.

I’m a furnace walker. I was reading this morning in Daniel 3. There were three men facing a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow to a false god. I have to say on this difficult journey, there’ve been times I wanted to give up. I just couldn’t. The three Hebrew men acknowledged the ability God had to deliver them. But they said – but if not we still won’t bow.  That’s how I feel as I walk through this furnace. God can deliver at any time – and that’d be okay with me. But I really am not looking for another God. There’s not one!

I am determined to let my faith be refined in his fire. I’m determined that I won’t bow to other things that try to get my attention. You know, like fear, doubt, worry. Even though it feels like the world has forgotten my son and me – I’ll stand firm knowing that God has not abandoned in the time of trouble. He’s still walking with me in the storm and in the furnace (description depends on the day.. lol) – He won’t’ quit because it got too long or because I get too whiney. We are forgotten by men – but never by God.

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In the Grip of Grief

It’s been a whileChris and the Thunder Drummers since I wrote here (thanks, captain obvious!). But I have a lot of things rolling around in my head and heart and I need a safe place to put them. It’s been over 10 years now since my son’s accident. I’ve been his primary caregiver at home for about eight and a half of those years. I keep thinking the grief will lessen. But it doesn’t.

For some reason this past week I have missed his voice more than usual. I just wish I could have a conversation with him again – even though I might or might not want to know what he’s really thinking. lol. On his end, it must be miserable to have a head full of words you can’t say. I assume that anyway. But it’s hard too not hearing him talk or sing.

This past weekend I decided to take him down to see the Thunder Drummers. They play out on the street before the Thunder games in OKC. I loaded him up and headed up there – thinking about how I wish I could hear him talk again. As we got closer and I began hearing the drumline my emotions surprised me once again as my eyes filled with tears.

What is this grief that doesn’t go away? Why doesn’t it get better? I know the answer is life dealt me a blow by taking my son (who he was) and leaving me his broken body to take care of. There was no funeral. There was no getting over and moving on even though I’ve adjusted to a new normal. The grip of grief just hangs on all.the.time.

So what are we supposed to do with this grief? I suppose the “right” answer is to hand it to God one.more.time. That’s really like a daily thing, though, isn’t it? Daily handing Him our cares, our worries, our frustrations, etc. is the norm. While I draw comfort from the Word daily and share it in my Daily Devotions for Caregivers blog, it doesn’t make the grief non-existant. I have go-to scriptures that I use to keep my heart in the right spot – to help me make it through the rougher days (they aren’t all this bad….)… verses like…

Casting all your care on Him and letting Him care for you (1 Peter 5:7)

God is a very present help in the time of need (Psalm 46:1)

Going back to remind myself of these and other scriptures does help me stay grounded. But they do not make the grief go away. Every day, sometimes many times a day, I have to take it to Him. He does provide the grace to help in time of need. I think for today I will be content with this thought. I may be forever in the grip of grief – but I’m also forever in the grip of His grace. Where grief tries to dig away at my heart, mind, and emotions grace is right beside with peace, calm, and the love of God to sustain.

 

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Dear Case Manager, I’m Important Too

Please forgive the rant – or hit the “back” button if you are prone to being offended! I’ve had my son at home and been his full-time caregiver now for over 6 years. I’ve had good aides, bad aides and aides that have become friends. I’ve had nurses that were punctual, knowledgeable, and genuinely cared for my son; and some who were just wanting a paycheck. We’ve had case managers from both ends of the spectrum as well.

I know I’m a little OCD and a Type A , high-strung, anxious person, but keeping appointments and being punctual are important ways for people to communicate worth. There was a post recently that made light of being punctual and said we shouldn’t be so stiff and everyone just needs to relax. There is not a fiber of my being that agrees with that viewpoint. First, let me say there are times when situations are totally out of a person’s control – a flat tire on the way to work, a kid who pukes all over you or your car, your car won’t start and a host of other emergencies that can come up to hinder a punctual arrival. But as a general rule, punctuality sends the message that the other participants are important and what is to be discussed is of value. I won’t even go into how much it costs a company monetarily when people are late and delay important meetings. So maybe I have a problem – but these things are important to me.

So… my son’s case manager usually schedules his appointment for the month ahead. I’ve finally stopped writing them down because every month she calls that day and reschedules it, usually more than once. That’s what happened this week. Last time she was here she scheduled an appointment with us for Monday. But when Monday came she was ill – and I do get that, so she rescheduled. I actually appreciate that since I try to protect Chris from being exposed to viruses and such. So she said she would come today – Wednesday. I’m like, cool.

I had wanted to take Chris to the grocery store this afternoon while the weather was sunny and nice, but decided we could opt for our normal schedule and I can go tomorrow instead. About half an hour before she was supposed to be here – she texts and told me her “other Norman” appointment had rescheduled – how does my Friday look? Just pissed me off.

Way to tell us we don’t matter.

Even though she probably does not intend us to feel this way, we were not worth the 12 mile drive from a neighboring town today. She doesn’t acknowledge that I changed up my schedule to accommodate her. I guess she doesn’t think about things like that. By ignoring the fact that we have things to do too – she says what is on my agenda is worthless and unimportant; but what is on her agenda is important.

How is what I do not important? First of all, much of my time is devoted to caring for my son. And I have just taken a full-time position with a company, plus have a few writing clients I provide content for. Plus, I have just started working on some of my own writing projects….but the fact that it is actually a juggling act to reschedule for her – is not important.

Maybe she does not understand all that it takes to take Chris out – but of course she is going to ask if I am working on re-socializing him and getting him out more. She may not understand how crammed full our schedule is and what it takes to puree his meals, feed him each and every bite, get him in the standing frame, do range of motion exercises, make sure he wears his splints…..etc. etc. etc. And of course figuring out how to work in between is a challenge. None of this is a complaint – just the way it is here. And her total disregard of our schedule and what we do in a day all has to be rearranged to coincide with her visit just gets to me after awhile. But if I choose to no longer accommodate – I’m the bad apple.

Please, if you work with others – on any level from providing home health services, to a professional level – value them. Our actions should always tell others that their position, thoughts, work, or whatever is just as important as yours. We should be communicating to others that they have value – and are worth out time.

Earlier this week I shared a post in my Devotions for Caregivers blog. I talked about how I got up and wanted God to speak to me quickly because I had a lot to do. But we don’t feel that way about other relationships. I mentioned how I don’t tell a doctor or nurse to hurry; I expect and appreciate them taking time to be thorough. But how many times do I act like this case manager when it comes to my communication with Him? How many mornings do I get up and think, I’ll study, pray or read later today, or tomorrow, or over the weekend?

While I think God is unlike me in that He patiently waits to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18). He longingly waits for us to take time to enter His presence, and when I schedule and reschedule – I am communicating to Him that time with Him is not worth my effort. So today – instead of spending my time fretting and being mad that the case manager doesn’t value my time – I’ll spend some time repenting for the times I have treated spending time in His presence with the same careless disregard. I’ll be purposefully making time to be with Him.

As for the case manager – I’d like to say that I won’t even bother to write her appointments down on my calendar anymore. But it’s not fair for me to expect God to just be sitting there for whenever I decide to show up- and be frustrated at her for something I do as well. If she comes Friday – I will mention my frustration and we will go from there.

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It’s a Wonderful Life?

Such a beautiful lady, and a beautiful life. This is a phrase my daddy said today and it’s stuck with me all day. You see, on top of being a full time caregiver for my son who has a brain injury, I’m moving into a support role and somewhat of a caregiving role for my parents too. Don’t misunderstand my role – my siblings and I are all on this journey together. We’ve been coming together to begin this process since my mom has started to decline and my dad has asked for help. It’s been kind of cool the way my brother and sisters have begun to work together to take care of mama and daddy.

Mama is displaying very obvious signs of dementia. She’s been in a steady decline for some time now, it’s just getting to where daddy can no longer manage it as he doesn’t feel well himself. Mama is obsessed with going to church. It used to be in the mornings, but now it can be anytime at all – she is in constant go to church mode. We are all afraid of her driving since she could become disoriented, but daddy’s getting tired of driving her up to the church all the time to prove there’s no church.

We decided as a family that the best thing is for our parents to move in with one of us kids and my brother’s house is the biggest and most accommodating. So the process has begun. Today daddy and I were talking about how mama can no longer perform daily tasks like cleaning, cooking or laundry. She is missing some logical sequences somewhere in there. With a shaky voice daddy said he never expected this – but who does? No one expects dementia or Alzheimer’s; or brain injuries either for that matter.With audible tears, he says She’s such a beautiful lady, and has had such a beautiful life.  To which I replied in my own shaky voice – I know, it’s not fair. It’s never fair.

And once again there is this overwhelming disappointment with life. Another reason I really don’t like most Christmas shows and this time of year is tough. They are so fairy-tales-y. They always come together in the end and everything works out smoothly. The guy gets the girl, the kid gets the gift – and ends with a magical moment. So unlike life.

Even the Bible doesn’t always have fairy tale endings like some faith-ers want us to believe. Stephen was stoned – and died. For that matter, many of our New Testament heroes died a martyrs death. Adam and Eve’s story – the first one in the Bible didn’t exactly end picture perfect. They had the life anyone would envy – living in the garden, walking and talking with God. But then they were thrown out – that had to hurt their feelings a bit. Plus then one of their sons killed the other…. not a pretty picture.  Noah was ultimately saved along with his family – but he witnessed a lot of devastation in the process. And Daniel lived most of his life as a captive. He fared well, but it wasn’t the picture perfect life complete with wife, kids and family.

We are not promised a picture perfect ending like It’s a Wonderful Life –  but in the end we will win I suppose. Knowing that my mom will have peace in the end – doesn’t make it any easier to deal with her decline right here and now as she fades away right before our eyes. Just because I’m already a caregiver, doesn’t exempt me from the rest of life. Stinks sometimes, huh?

Mama stayed with me Monday while daddy went to the doctor. My independent mother is reverting to needing to be cared for ans watched over like a child. She depends on daddy so much. She really has had a beautiful life. She and daddy raised four kids, she went to school before it was popular and became an LPN and then went to college to get her degree and worked as an RN. She has ministered to thousands of people over the years. She plays the piano and preaches – even pastored a couple of churches here and there. She’s always had a heart for the down-and-out and to this day will talk to total strangers. She’s taken care of many people over the years – and her table welcomed anyone who needed to eat or fellowship. Now it’s our turn to take care of her.

It is going to take all of us! And we’ll need the same strength she has talked about for all these years. I’ve heard her quote many scriptures – and today as I embark on this part of life’s journey I’ll hold to one I heard all my life – I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Me. I’ll try to remember that one from Isaiah as I navigate through the next few weeks. I believe that His peace can help us have a wonderful life even in the midst of the struggle….and the pain….somehow.

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Same Silent Wonder

I’ve never been much of a Christmas fan in my BC life (before caregiving), but I think I like it even less now. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of things I appreciate about it such as people tending to be purposeful about their giving and those who reach out to others in need. But why do we only see that at the holiday? Shouldn’t that be all year long? Shouldn’t giving be a lifestyle not just at Christmas?  I know there are people who do that on a regular basis, and that’s good. And I do appreciate those who have given to us this holiday season. It’s really nice and warms our hearts for someone or some group to acknowledge we are indeed still alive! Every action of generosity is always appreciated.

On the other hand, I think I speak for many caregivers on this – life goes on. Our day doesn’t change one iota because it’s Christmas, Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day. As a caregiver we have everything  to do today that we did yesterday – nothing can be left out. These are not “days off” for us – and there is no break. And actually in many ways adding in a day of extra cooking, extra shopping, extra this or that – it can be overwhelming at best. And while I will enjoy the additional time with my family and am looking forward to it – no one knows how much more planning and work it takes just to do what is normal.

My thoughts started along this line because the nurse who came to check on Chris today (her normal monthly visit) acted shocked that the aide said she’d be here tomorrow on Christmas Eve. She won’t be here on Christmas Day of course – and while I understand that – it means what little break I do get – I don’t get. And if she chooses to not work on Christmas Eve too – it means a full week before I get to run errands or can get outside for a run. No big deal – I really do understand – but we are on hold as if our need does not exist on the holiday – in a strange way it sort of makes me feel like our needs are not validated – we are not important.

For many, the holidays are a difficult time and can mean additional emotional baggage just to make it through the day. Staff hurries about so they can get their jobs done so they don’t miss their holiday ( and that’s okay) – but while everyone else is enjoying a day off – caregivers still have a day on with additional responsibilities to live up to. It’s just a reach sometimes – well worth it – but makes me tired just thinking about it. lol

For many caregivers what should be the happiest day of the year can be a very dreadful and depressing time. We all have loved ones who have passed and somehow we tend to miss them more on the holidays. For me, I miss my son every.single.day – even though he is still technically here. I’d love to give him a present and see him actually open it himself, smile at me and even give me a fake “thanks mom.” lol – But that’s not going to happen – he’ll be the same silent wonder on Christmas Day as he’s been every other day of the year.

I guess listening to everyone else talking about and planning out wonderful trips and Christmas vacations just got to me this year. Even though the day after Christmas I will spend with family and I’ll enjoy it – I still have that sinking feeling like I’m missing out on something in life. Emotions tend to run so much higher and the normal fights with depression and anxiety seem amplified. My life doesn’t change from one day to the next – from one holiday to the next. Every day there are things that have to be done and they can’t be put off until tomorrow…..ever.

This year, we were blessed by a group who went way out of their way to make our holidays a special time; and I’m so thankful – they really did make a difference for us. Today I look at my son – and think of all the things I have to do to care for him and all the things I have to do because I’m way behind in work – and I’m just overwhelmed again. Because every day is basically the same between caregiving and work, I never  feel like I get ahead – there’s literally no breathing room.

So this year while you are piddling around and hurrying around to get all your holiday shopping, cooking and stuff done – just take a moment to think of someone you know who doesn’t get to enjoy a “normal” holiday – or a day off. Just give them a call – send them a card – stop by and see them for 5 minutes — sometimes people just need to be reminded that others remember they exist. Brighten their day just a bit – by acknowledging the fact that they have value in your life – and that someone out there cares. Those seemingly small gestures do make a huge difference to someone living in a cave!

As someone who always has to have scripture for everything – I leave you with this thought – it’s from Matthew 25 where Jesus is describing the sheep and the goats. He said to the sheep, who had no idea what they were doing: I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. They asked Him when, where and how they had done all this – and He said –when you’ve done it even to the least of one of these – you’ve done it unto me. 

Don’t worry about drumming something up just to please Him though; the sheep were doing all that naturally – the goats never got a clue! So for those of you who have reached out to someone in need whether it’s a caregiver or not during this holiday season – I say thank you for looking like Him.

 

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Trying to Reign it In

My emotions run high most of the time. Any given day they can be all over the place. But hey, I’m a woman and a caregiver so there you go! I deal with a “living grief” since my son is here – but gone at the same time. So as I journey through peri-menopause and things continue to change.. I can tear up at the drop of a hat. However, I still see no point in crying since whatever you are crying about – doesn’t change just because tears fell. So why bother?

But today as I had taken Chris to therapy and had time to drive and think this last 7 years started running around in my head. This weekend is the anniversary of the wreck that took him away from us. I keep seeing the scenario over and over in my mind. I was at work and my daughter called to tell me that my son had been in a wreck and he had been mediflighted to the trauma center in Shreveport. I had no idea how extensive his injuries were but I knew if he was mediflighted it was not good. I also had no idea what the next days, weeks, months or 7 years was going to look like.

So many things have changed over this 7 years. Chris is doing good, and making some good progress, but he’s still total assistance with everything. I honestly have to ask myself if this is it. Will he be able to do much more than this? Is this what the next 7 years looks like? Do you know how old I will be in another 7 years? Is this all my life will look like…forever?

Add to these emotions the fact that I just feel so insignificant and like I really don’t fit anywhere or with anyone. I know all the shoulds– but that’s just how I feel. Sometimes the alone-ness swallows me up and I feel like I am barely alive. And just about the time I get it all together and am actually having a tiny little social life….the anniversary starts nagging away.

When is the last time I talked to Chris before the wreck? We were talking a lot back then seems like every couple of days. And having some really good conversations. Which one was the last one? Did I tell him I love you before we hung up? I usually did. I still do with my daughter….I know I sent him some money for gas about a week before. lol

what if I’d have known it was our last conversation? Would I have said anything different? I don’t know. I have tons of questions. But I’ll spare you.

I have to say this 7 years has left me in a time warp. For so long I felt like I lived in the cave. Then when I was out – I wanted to go back to its safety! lol  I have changed a lot, life has changed a lot. I don’t have time to waste with dumb stuff and I don’t put up with as much nonsense as I used to. I have learned to not sweat the small stuff… and to choose my battles wisely when I have a choice. I’ve learned a lot about me… good and bad.

Faith has been an issue too. It took me quite some time to redefine and accept a new definition of faith. I’ve shared before that I always thought of faith as what kept us safe – protected us from life’s harms. And now I realize instead it is what carries us through them not around them. Trusting in God had also been an issue – I thought He’d take care of my son since I was doing His work. Instead, I found that doing His work is taking care of the least of those among us. And now – I trust Him for every breath. I must say my faith is deeper and my trust is wider than I ever thought possible. Now I do not cling to them like a lucky charm hoping they will prevent bad things from happening. Instead I cling to them as a life preserver – that’s going to carry me on over the rocky waves.

Even though for the first few years I felt like I fell far away from God and I felt abandoned by Him, now I am so much closer and it is so much sweeter. I think the best analogy is how the crushing of a flower releases the sweet fragrance. When we cherish Him in spite of the journey, our lives will emit a fresh, beautiful fragrance that is pleasant and wholesome. I’ve been crushed and horrid fumes have come out! But now I am seeing a fresh fragrance of worship as I let go of my life and let Him reign again in my heart. A worship I haven’t experienced in a long time… or ever really.

Why? Because now in the midst of the furnace – I trust Him more. How that happened I honestly have no idea! But I am past feeling betrayed… and now I collapse in the arms of the One I love. I’m even working on a new song – the chorus will go something like this:

I’m running to Your arms of grace

arms that upheld me through it all

Grace that never runs out on me

whether I stand or whether I fall

Your grace holds me close to Your heart

so close every time I call…..

And that is where I am after 7 years.

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And Just Like That…..

Talk to any caregiver and they can tell you (but probably won’t) how difficult each day can be. You just never know what you’re going to face when you get up in the morning. Of course, there’s all the basic stuff – and quite frankly, that’s enough. But throw in a run to the urgent care clinic or ER and stress levels can soar even higher. That’s how it’s been around here for me for some time now. It’s like virtually everything is all screwed up.

It can feel like you’re spending all day every day trying to figure life out. For me, I have been thinking about how confined I feel. How much “loss” I have grown accustomed to on this walk. If I get started with that line of thinking I can quickly be taken under by it all. Sometimes I can shake off those feelings of not having a “normal” life. Other times I get overwhelmed by the loss of freedom. But it’s a choice I make so I can take care of my son. And sometimes I am able to turn it around in my head and use it for incentive to work harder. If I work harder I can make more money and if I can increase my level of income I can do more, we can do more.

But today I’m just tired having my own fight with health issues and a brief stay in the hospital last week has worn me out. Some days it helps me focus – other days it drags me down into depression which is hard to get out of. But I am making it one day at a time. First of all, I’m having to learn how to take care of me. As caregivers we can forget that too easily. We are so focused on taking care of our loved one – we forget to give ourselves the same TLC. We really don’t think about it, until something happens. That’s where I’ve been for almost 2 years now.

As I come to grips with my own health issues I have to realize that in order to take care of my son – I really do have to remain focused on myself. If not for myself – for him. I tend to ignore health issues until they are much harder to manage than they would be if I just addressed them early on. So, here I am having to face some things I’ve tried to push aside for 2 years and they just grew louder until they literally got me down a time or two. I’m still in full-blown denial that I have any issues to begin with.

I say all that to say – it all adds to this tiredness. One thing people tell me is I need to “give myself credit” – I got a lot on my plate. Yeah, okay. I acknowledge I’ve got a lot on my plate – but there’s not much that can be removed from said plate. Chris is doing real good right now and his care takes more time – not a complaint in any way – just a fact. a very happy fact! He’s awake more – eats more moves more – and all that requires more action on my part. That’s wonderful – BUT – I also have to try to make a living and time runs short. So I push, and push and push to get everything done in a day…. and always come up short. That’s how it feels anyway.

Some days I look at emails from my clients and think I just can’t deal with you guys today. But that’s how I make my living and I do really like to  eat….and race. And both of those require money! lol So I talk myself into pushing through one more day.

My point is that caregivers get tired – but we can’t tell anybody. We can’t take a chance at letting anyone know how we really feel physically because we never want to think we might not be able to take care of our loved ones. So we may not eat, may not work, may not exercise – but we will take care of our loved ones. No matter how tired or rundown we feel – we are going to take care of them. So that’s how I really feel.

So yesterday, my son had to be taken in to the hospital since the home x-ray tech said Chris had pneumonia on both sides. (He didn’t – but that’s what they said) I was sitting in the waiting area of the ER and I pulled out my phone and plugged in an ear bud to listen to Worn by Tenth Avenue North. It does a fair job at describing how tired I can feel. Some days as the song describes it takes all my strength to keep on breathing… pretty much!

So I am thinking about how tired I am (yes – I was focused on my own feelings shame on me!), listening to Worn and then this phrase grabs me: I’m worn I’ve lost my will to fight…. and I got mad. I have NOT lost my will to fight. All of a sudden I’ve unplugged the song and am raring to go once again. I will never lose my will to fight. It’s funny because I’ve listened to this song a hundred times and that phrase has never grabbed me like that. It was just the jolt I needed to stand back up spiritually and say – I’m not done here!

So obviously I made it through another day and am ready to go again. I am learning to draw closer to Him and to let Him be my strength. My life hasn’t ended – it’s just way different. When I’m at my weakest point I must rely on Him to lift me up and not try to do it myself. Yes I am still a Type A – yes I am still a workaholic – yes I am still tenaciously pulling through – but He is ultimately my strength. Sometimes I have to stop and do a lot of letting.  I have to let  Him be my strength, let Him pick me up, let Him sooth my soul, and let Him bring comfort. Not always easy – but always do-able.

I have to say that on a daily basis the chorus to Worn is still my prayer and it goes like this:

Let me see redemption win

Let me know the struggle ends

That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I wanna know a song can rise 

from the ashes of a broken life

and all that’s dead inside can be reborn

…I’m worn.

Here’s a link to the video: Worn by Tenth Avenue North. Just rest.

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The Value of Good Conversation

Sometimes, okay – most of the time, as a caregiver I feel like I just stick out in life. It feels like I don’t really fit anywhere or with anybody. There are a few places we go – most of them necessary and I just learn to adjust, adapt and advance. Such is life right now. Even though we do get out more – and I’m getting out more specifically since we finally have a decent aide, it still feels like I’m just out of sync with the world. My life is just different period and all I can do is make the best of it.

There are many negatives that I could focus on. For instance, it’s not easy navigating around with Chris and is oversize chair. I used to be embarrassed by his drooling. And I feel socially dwarfed in most situations because of the lack of social activities. Add to that things like trying to find a spot to park our handicap van where I don’t inconvenience others (I fondly call it our “tank”.) and I can be emotionally drained just from going out. I only mention these because they are things that caregivers just have to deal with – and just have to get over.

But the other day I took the tank in for an oil change. First of all the attendant was very friendly. I had a coupon for the oil change and he pointed to the price and said that was correct but if the van needed more than 5 quarts of oil it would be $8 or $9 more. I asked him if he knew how much I could get a quart of oil for at Walmart. (I don’t shop there any more btw!) I said, “I’ll tell  you what then. You put 5 quarts in for that price and tell me if it needs another quart – I’ll add a quart at home!” He told me he would cover it for me not to worry about it! lol But he was just so friendly and kind. He has no idea how his whole demeanor affects others in a positive way.

Then I went inside the store and grabbed a free coffee and sat. Pretty soon about 4 of us older ladies had gathered. I don’t even know how the conversation got started, but we all started talking about washing machines. (Real wisdom right there, huh?) One lady said she had just replaced her washing machine that she’d had for 40 years! We all chimed in about how things used to last and how you could repair them yourself back in the day. I started to check my facebook or something but I decided I didn’t want to compromise this moment with these ladies I would never see again. It was such an enjoyable conversation about nothing really. We didn’t build relationship, we didn’t discuss politics or changing the world we just talked about our experience with washing machines. lol

We even talked about the old school wringers like my Auntie Pat used to have. We laughed and decided we’d prefer the computerized models of today. We talked about hanging out clothes to dry. So many memories were crammed into this 15 minute spontaneous conversation among strangers. I noticed at one point a young lady came in and looked around. She stood there for a minute and then left. As I was driving away I noticed she was setting outside alone and her cell phone had all her attention. I felt sorry that she couldn’t glean anything from our conversation about nothing important. Because it meant so much to me. I left there feeling light and cheery; and I didn’t even know why.

I thought about it for quite some time and think I know what happened. For just a minute or two – I wasn’t a caregiver – these ladies knew nothing about me. I was just a person – just like them. I’m sure they each have their struggles too because they were breathing just like me. We talked about nothing and it was beautiful. I’ve given up hope of ever being normal whatever that looks like. But for a moment I almost felt human again!

As a caregiver people don’t know what to talk about with you for some reason. I really don’t want to talk about caregiving all the time… there’s more to me than that….I think. I have a good friend who comes by now and then and brings me coffee and we visit. It always makes my day! We talk about anything and everything and it takes me out of caregiving for a bit – and is refreshing.

If you know a caregiver – give them a call. Take them some coffee. Take them a magazine or book or even a movie that would interest them. And then talk about it. They probably still like to play cards other games. Their likes didn’t change – just their situation. They have given up all that stuff for a couple of  reasons. First, there really isn’t always time. Secondly, everyone stopped playing with them…so it’s easier to just cut it from their lives.

Caregivers are giving their lives for someone they love. But they are still alive, still human and still have hopes, dreams and desires. Don’t bury them by ignoring them. The social isolation that comes with the caregiving package is one of the most damaging aspects of the journey. Some of that is because even when we are out in social settings we’re still not like everyone else. It’s difficult to watch others be uncomfortable with who you are. I am to the point I don’t care really – I will try to stay out of your way- but you have some adjustments to make if I am in your way.

Go love a caregiver today. James said that pure religion and undefiled before God is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction; and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Caregivers are not necessarily widows or fatherless but I think they fit into this category. They are separated from normalcy and social interaction  for the most part. It’s  not that it’s a command – but it’s just something nice to do outside your box. I would suggest to visit anyone out of your norm. Perhaps you know of someone who is in a nursing home, a hospital or otherwise home bound. Maybe they can’t attend your worship service. Maybe they no longer want to – because of how awkward they make you appear.

Christianity wasn’t designed to be lived out inside the four walls of the church. Keith Green sang, Jesus told us to “go” it should be the exception if we stay. Do some true ministry today and go love on someone who is hurting – you’ll be surprised how much healing it brings to you.

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Strength for the Journey

Anyone on social media knows there are tons of prayer requests that go through the feed on any given day. Typically, I will follow a link or do a search to see if it’s a valid request. Sometimes the person is already better or has passed before I see the prayer request. I usually pray for specific needs as I scroll through the feed though. But the other day I saw a request and I honestly didn’t know what to pray.

A little girl had sustained a head injury I can’t remember now if she had nearly drowned or had been shaken. Either way it was very serious. I cried for her parents as I read the request and I knew their lives would never be the same. She was in a very poor state and they just wanted her to live. Their words took my mind back to the first night I sat in ICU with my son and prayed that very same prayer. All I wanted was for him to live – where there’s breath there’s hope, right?

Since then, I’ve wondered why I prayed such a selfish prayer. It was instinctual really. As a mother we can’t bear to part with our children. I soon found myself thinking it would have been better for my son to die. Yeah, I know it’s a horrible thought – but I had it. I mean, really – what kind of life does he have? I felt so guilty for even thinking it. After a little bit of research I found out that it is actually a natural part of the caregiving process and a very normal thought. But it still just feels wrong.

All this went through my mind as I looked at the image of the parents and their unconscious child. I thought about the last 7 years of caregiving and I didn’t know what to pray. I spent years in the ministry and am usually not at a loss for words. I can come up with something almost every time. But I just sat there and stared at the picture…wondering. Weeping. Did I want to pray for her to live like the parents requested? I had a sense of the life they might live – dying every day. I was so caught in between and my emotions were raw. I’m a minister, I should know what to pray.

Then my old religious training kicked in- pray for God’s will I thought. Then my thoughts went nuts. God’s will? What a cop-out. What is God’s will? Was it His will for my son to be in that accident and sustain a traumatic brain injury? Was it his will for me to live this shell of a life for the rest of my life? My mind went through tons of scenarios wondering what His will really looks like. Is it His will for me to struggle every.single.day? Evidently it is – because it’s happening.

When my son first had his wreck, a friend said to me that it had to pass His desk first. In other words – God is still in control. Nothing happens that He doesn’t know about. That can be a frustrating thought- why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening then? Why doesn’t He prevent or eradicate terrorism and the bad in the earth? Are those His will  too? We are hashing around an age old question here, one to which there is no answer.

So I finally prayed for the parents instead of the little girl. You can judge me if you want; but you haven’t walked this walk of mine. The only peace I had was to pray for them to have wisdom and peace in every decision they might have to make and strength for the journey. Isn’t that pretty much what we all need anyway?

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