Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Time of Our Lives


Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Our lives are composed of a series of times. They are gifts from God. As someone wisely said, what we do with them is our gift to God.

You never know how the Lord is going to use the circumstances in your life to bless someone, and stretch you at the same time. You never know when you get married, what God will ask of you and your spouse…what sacrifice He will ask you to make as a couple. Steve and I have found this out, in the last few months.

In October, Steve’s step dad, Toliver had to have double bypass surgery on his heart. A few days afterward, he had a major stroke, and was put on life support. Although presently improved, he still has a feeding tube and is in a rehab center. When Toliver went into the hospital, Steve went to stay with his mother. He didn’t realize at the time, that it was going to be more than a short stay.

His mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, severe dementia and other health issues. I first noticed the extent of the forgetfulness a year ago, Thanksgiving when she came in the kitchen to help before dinner. I suggested she make her beloved mashed potatoes, and she had a hard time remembering how to make them. Things began to slowly go downhill over the next year, and by this past Thanksgiving, she was a totally different person. One that barely remembered who people were, and sat quietly talking to herself. It was so sad. This was a woman who knew her Bible inside and out, reduced to not remembering why she was in church…calling it “school” . This was a woman who was the church pianist for decades, now plunking away at notes that did not coincide. She was very afraid, and could not be left alone.
Then came the task of finding a caregiver.

His mother would not live with any of her children. We knew that would not be an option. Steve’s brothers have had major health issues in the last few years, and because of that and distance, they could not physically help out, but they were wonderful emotional support. Steve’s sister’s spouse was infirmed, so she could not give her full time care. Steve took on the role of caregiver for his mother and as representative for Toliver. He has been self employed for quite a while, and in the past couple of years, the jobs have been few and far between. We have wondered why God didn’t provide full time employment for him. Now we knew why. God needed him to fulfill another job.

At the end of November, Steve moved into his mother’s home. Most of the time he was able to come home for a couple of hours a day to see me, while his sister stayed with their mom. Usually, he was able to sleep at home one or two nights a week, then went back to his mother’s the next morning. During those evenings, his sister had to leave her sick husband to come and stay with their mom. Between the two of them, they did a remarkable job in caring for her.

This was a very difficult thing for Steve, on many levels. He, like a lot of men, is not exactly a caregiver at heart. This was a major stretch for him. It was also not easy for him to be away from me. In most cases, the longer two people are married, the more they do become connected…become one. For us to be apart was not an easy thing, for either of us. Yet, God used that time to reinforce our bond as husband and wife, and we became closer than ever.

Many people would not have tolerated living apart from their spouse. I hear young people all of the time stating what they will put up with and what they won’t, from their mates. It seems to be all about them. I’m not talking about serious issues, like infidelity, or abuse, but little, insignificant things. The vows to love, honor and cherish, involve thinking of what is best for the other person. That’s one reason why it was so difficult for Steve to be away from home. It was so hard for him to know that I was home alone at night. He worried about me, as my health has not been that good over the past few months. He wanted to be home, yet he knew his mother needed him. On my part, I knew that this was something that Steve had to do. It was not about me. I had to focus on what he needed…what I could do to support him.
Emotionally, he needed to be able to see me when he could. Since his time at home was not always predetermined, I made him my priority and kept my calendar free from activities and outings.
Was it easy on either of us? No. But life is never easy for anyone. Would we change any decisions we made? No. We knew we did what God would have us do.

As time passed, the dementia got worse, and his mom began having more health problems. This took a major toll on both Steve and his sister. They kept putting off the inevitable until they had exhausted themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Eventually, she had to be taken to a facility where she could best be ministered to. That was the most difficult decision that Steve and his siblings had to make, but they did so out of love for their mom. I admire all of them for their trust in God for strength, and their reliance on each other for support. They should feel no regrets.

I appreciate Steve, for he did what the Bible says...he honored his mother.
Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 

He took care of her, and with the Lord's help, he did something that didn't come naturally to him.  This was also a wonderful example to our two sons, of the importance of parental devotion.

When I was younger, I anticipated the different times of my life…the joy of being married and having children. I knew that some day we would face the infirmities of old age and retirement, but didn’t think too much of the in between years. I didn’t contemplate the intricacies of taking care of our parents at an older age. My parents passed away when I was fairly young…both parents were gone before I was 35. I think we normally go through this time of our life when we are middle aged for a reason. As we get older, we begin to feel the fingers of time creep up on our bodies. Mortality begins to sneak into our minds a bit more, as we begin to taste the appetizers of aging. We can see clearer, the closer we are to a situation. We realize that at some point, that that will be us in that vulnerable position; that will be us, who will look for mercy, kindness and understanding from others.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.


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