During devotion time this morning my mind wandered to a scene from a science fiction movie my husband and I recently watched. In this scene the hero is using his powers against an ugly and terribly frightening alien. The alien has been assigned to kill our hero, but as the hero valiantly fights, he looks up to see his comrade in desperate need of help as she battles with a flying beast. He makes the decision to turn his back on his own opponent and uses his powers to give aid to his comrade in her life and death battle. He saves her, but while doing so, his own enemy revives and nearly finishes him off.
I brought my mind back to my daily Bible reading with a sense of guilt for my inattentiveness, but then as I opened my heart and mind to the Lord, I realized why this movie scene had come to mind. These past seven years as I've cared for my mom, I’ve turned my attention to the needs of another. In so doing I’ve taken my eyes from my own dreams and goals; in fact, I’ve let go not only my wants but also some things that could be categorized as needs. It's interesting how that scene from the movie took root in my subconscious and then presented itself to me as an illustration of the sacrifices I've made for my mother.
As caregivers we must attempt neither to fall to resentment because so much has been asked of us, nor to dismiss as being unimportant the things we've given up. I've erred on both sides; in fact, I tend to vacillate between the two perspectives. Some days you'll find me saying things like this: "Mom is relatively easy to care for, and the Lord's been with us throughout this journey. I have no cause for complaint."
Other days I clench my jaw shut and seethe--yes, seethe with anger because I feel so unappreciated for all that I've done for Mom. Seven years ago I cut my job to half time to take care of her, and then, this spring, at least in part because of the gentle withdrawal I began from duties at my job at the time of Mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis, I found myself with no real role to play for the coming fall at the K-12 school where I'd taught for 22 years. I'd subbed and taught summer school for ten years before I was under contract, and a few years prior to that had attended high school at the same attendance center where I later taught. Thus, walking away from my job entailed letting go of a place that had been a part of my life since I was 16 years old.
When I walked into Mom's room yesterday morning she first called me by my daughter's name, then by mine, then felt confused and finally asked, "Now, who are you?" I see that we are coming to the end of Mom's mid-stages of Alzheimer's and are poised for the final act. And with this cursed disease who knows how long these final stages will take, and what new agonies await?
I cried all this out to the Lord, citing before Him my grief over what I've freely given for His sake not only to Mom, but to others I love. As I prayed, I wrote this reply as from the Lord to me and to every caregiver who reads these words:
Whether the blessings God promises are for this world or for the next, in the words of the old hymn, "I know whom I've believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that I have entrusted unto Him against that day" (from the Hymn "I Know Whom I Have Believed" at hymnsite.com). I can trust Him with this caregiving journey as well as with all I've let go in order to hang on tightly to Him.You made this commitment, Child. You have submitted your will to Me for the sakes of these others you love, those precious ones I have loved first and best. You have become a willing vessel for My love to bless the lives of others. You are dying to self, and dying is not pleasant; but death must precede resurrection. You will yet see My goodness in the land of the living; allow hope to be kindled in your heart. I will not leave you or abandon you. I have seen your suffering, I have counted your tears, and I will not just “make it up” to you; I will bless you richly beyond anything you have earned.
Scripture: "I have no regrets. I couldn't be more sure of my ground—the One I've trusted in can take care of what he's trusted me to do right to the end" (2 Timothy 1:12, The Message).
"I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him" (2 Timothy 1:12, New Living Translation).