The Reluctant Caregiver?

Dementia! What a devastating disease—especially when it knocks on your own door. But, in spite of the odds, that happened to us personally. Thirteen years ago, it knocked on the door to our happy little home—and forced its way in. My soul mate—my sweetheart—my lover—my dear wife was diagnosed as having that dreadful disease. Such a diagnosis always signals the beginning of a long, sad goodbye—a death sentence without reprieve. It meant I would slowly, painfully be transformed from her soul mate to her caregiver. It also meant that our future lives would be riding on a roller coaster of emotions. Our natural instincts would lead us from anger to depression to ‘why me’ questions. We would be destined to cry a lot. Many times my natural instincts would lead me to think of her as a burden rather than a blessing—I would only see her as she now is rather than what she used to be.

But, in the midst of all these extreme lows, we read weird little Scriptures such as ‘Consider it as pure joy whenever you face all sorts of trials’ and ‘Be thankful in all circumstances because this is God’s will for you…’ Whoa! All joy? Are we to consider dementia—or cancer—or failing hearts as sources for pure joy? Are we to thank God for sentencing us to live out our last days on ‘death row’? Our first thoughts are ‘No way!’ Yet, that’s what the Scriptures say.

However, in addition to those seemingly impossible instructions, we also read that ‘God makes all things work together for good’—even the long, sad goodbyes. I must admit that I cannot see the good most of the time, but nevertheless, that’s what He tells us He will accomplish through our trials. Our tribulations will always have a happy ending. So, armed with that promise, I began enumerating the blessings associated with this seemingly awful time in our lives. Sure enough, if we look hard enough, we can get a glimpse of the hand of God. For instance: 1) through it all, God has shielded her from any knowledge of her condition. She is totally unaware of her death sentence and all its associated trials. 2) As for me, God has been walking with me every step of the way through this deep, dark valley. He never promised to isolate us from our trials, but rather to insulate us with His presence. 3) I also had to stop and realize that prior to this; God had already given us nearly 40 years of euphoric marriage in which her life was dedicated to caring for me and my needs and desires. 4) Now our loving Lord was sparing my life and health so that I could dedicate my life to caring for her in her time of need. And most of the time, He has given me much needed patience—a virtue totally unpresent in my natural life. And, 5) during this time, while in near total confinement within our four walls, God has given me the book of ‘Musings of a Lifetime Bible Teacher’ illustrating His wonderful, amazing love for us. I have prayed everyday that God would place it in the hands of all who needed encouragement during their times of stress.

WOW! In spite of all my doubts and discouragements, what a privilege is mine to serve both her and our gracious Lord during this trying time!

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