Monday, February 7, 2011

The Caregiver

Having only understood this from the “other seat”, as it were, there are still things I can say.  Thank you, Ann!

Number one, I would NOT be here had it not been for the careful and faithful care of my wife Ann.  Over these last ten years, she did it all without complaint, while rearing children and all the other things at the same time.  Talk about keeping "all the balls moving".  It IS a juggling act, plus with sinful personalities to boot, without the addition of a stroke.

The night before of my stroke, I had told her of a strange headache I’d had.  She suggested we go to the ER then.   I said, “If it gets worse...”  It did.  OY!  At 4 am, my brain woke me up, and I knew something very bad was happening.  Ann all but jumped out of bed and was down the stairs to the car ASAP.  I wasn’t that fast.  We got to the ER quickly.

She visited me every day, both when I was in Santa Rosa (and hour and a half’s drive) and in the Rehab at Mercy Sacramento (only 45 min. drive :-)  She is tougher than she looks.  :-)  I have told many that my wife lived her marriage vows with my stroke ("...for better, for worst, in sickness and in health...").  Never pausing to think of herself, but of me and our family.  I cannot thank God enough of the woman He gave to me in Ann.

Number two, caregivers need a time away from being the care-giver, and away from the object of their care.  Basically, the care-giver needs mini-vacations.  Taking care of someone, like me after my stroke or any other person going through a major physical change, is stressful, regardless of the personalities involved. 

Give the care-giver need a break.  The member of your parish, maybe you, can offer such a min-vacation to the care-giver(s) among you.  Or find a way to take that care-giver for coffee or lunch.  A break, a change.  I rejoice in the ladies of All Saints Reformed Episcopal Mission in Vacaville, CA.  They brought meals to my children most nights while I was in the hospital so that Ann could visit me.  I am forever grateful to them and their families.  There are many others who fall into that category as well.  Thank you all!

Number three: The transitions as you get better are NOT easy, or comfortable.  There are two minds in operation, two sinners.  I went from being an adult and the husband to being 'the other child', and to climbing back.  Here is a great opportunity for frustrations in other areas to rear it’s head .  She knows how to talk with me.  I am grateful to God for Ann’s talents and abilities.  Listening is a HUGE part of this equation.  Are you hearing the other properly?  Don’t go off like cheap fireworks, but ask other, gentle, searching questions.

One of the frustrations I faced, along with many post-stroke patients, is people finishing your sentences.  As you get better, the question of who does or says what changes.  That's part of getting better.

Number four: Protect your care-giver.  If our experience was unique, I wouldn’t be talking about it.  I can't tell you the number of folks who shared that same frustration.  People who thought they knew better, though not waking in 'our shoes'.  People, otherwise wonderful Christians, said horrible things about my wife...not to her or me.  NOT HELPFUL.

They are bullies-from-afar.  They had no courage to stand with her and the family, or to minister to her to  show why things ought to be done differently.  In the ‘30’s, one of the Barrymores, after reading a particularly horrible review, is said to have replied, “I take great comfort to knowing that no child in America says, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a critic.’”

I realize that there is a certain prejudice against whose who have had strokes.  A fellow pastor from the Fargo, ND area, and a stroke-overcomer, had cards printed where it said “Please be patient.  I am NOT mentally retarded, I had a stroke.”  What I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly some said truly horrible stuff about my care-giver; what she did or didn’t do, thought, said.  ARGH.  It would have been easier for me to meet them “in the school-yard after school for a fight” but life is never that simple.  Be prepared.

As quickly as I shoot at the critics, let me praise the quiet ministers of God’s grace to me, Ann, and the children.  YOU CHANGED OUR LIVES FOR THE GOOD IN SO MANY WAYS.  Thank you. 

Number five: There is NO returning.  You have no time for nostalgia.  "Getting back to normal" is a fantasy.  I advice is simply, "Live today for the glory of God"

It’s taken me 10 years to realize that.  We would not make the same decisions today we did 10 or 20 years ago.  Many times I have said that God ‘blessed me with my stroke’.  I firmly believe that.  I am now able to speak to others with whom I would otherwise be been seen as just another meddlesome priest. 

I 'helped' people head the wrong direction.  I so desperately wanted to be thought of as having beaten it all.  In truth, the stroke remains.  True, I am working to get better, but there are those days...

Why did God put you into the lives of your friends and family?  Show them Christ’s love.  Minister gently.  Rejoice in the care-givers God brought into this world...and care for them!  Pray for them today...and each day, please.

Thank you


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