My phone rings and I may not know the person calling, but they’re looking for help. In the December 2012 issue of GraceTouch I shared how my husband, Dick, was on a slow but constant downhill with Alzheimer’s disease. In February of 2014, God graciously saw fit to once again give him a whole body and mind, taking him home to be with his Savior and Lord.
Now, at least once a week, I interact with others who are family or spouse caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. They are confused, tired, frustrated, not knowing what to do, what decisions to make, and what direction to go. I do not pretend to know all the answers, but I believe God gives me the ability to relate what I’ve learned, walk alongside, and many times share that it is He who gave me patience, guidance, love, and wisdom over those years.
The last year of Dick’s life he was on hospice care as his body was steadily failing. Much like an infant, he needed to be bathed, spoon fed, and lifted with a Hoyer. As I interacted on a daily basis with those who helped with his care, I am thankful God gave me both the physical and emotional strength I needed, as well as the steadfast love I had for this man who hadn’t known me in years.
I did not realize the impact and testimony this was making on others. Several days before Dick passed away, a hospice social worker and a nurse asked if they could talk to me. They shared that they didn’t know “what to do” with me. They said I was loving, calm, and they’d observed that all year, but I was not facing his death like others do. I had opportunity to share it was because of my faith…and that had they known Dick in the past, he had that faith, too. They asked if they could give my phone number to others who needed comfort. A ministry opportunity right there!
In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1, Paul shares about the adversity in his life, and reminds us that it may be in our “times of troubles” that God is equipping us for a ministry in the lives of others. How true that has been in my life! During the thirteen years we walked the Alzheimer’s Road together, God upheld, sustained, loved and comforted us. I don’t want to let my experience, and accompanying “times of troubles” go without use and/or ministry. Although Dick had no comprehension of what was happening, he would have loved knowing that the path we were walking was giving me a ministry in the lives of others.
In Dick’s last year of life, I prayed many times that God would release him from his debilitated mind and body, and take him Home to the place he had looked forward to for many years. Other than this disease, his body was medically healthy, and I could envision many more years of his being in a mostly vegetative state. God had other plans, and although our last week together was hard on him, our children and their families, as well as myself, it was a relief to know his mind and body were soon going to be perfectly healed.
However, I was not prepared for the emptiness I felt after being his caregiver for so many years. I missed seeing him, caring for him, and being with him, even if our conversation was one-sided both in words and in knowledge. There was a love God had given us for each other that surpassed his damaged being. Today, although I am thankful he no longer has to endure those last years, I truly miss him. Love goes on. Many times I sit in “our chair” and look over and pretend I can see him give me “that smile.” I look forward to the day I am assured of, when we will once again be reunited with those we love. In the meantime, I strive to use our “times of troubles” for the unusual but needed ministry He has called me to.
For more information on all the programs and services that are offered in each state/area, visit www.alz.org. You will also find a list of the local support groups and the 24/7 Helpline information. — by Kaye Kessler