If you’ve come here directly without a link from post entitled The Interaction of Religious Beliefs and Caregiving, I urge you to go back there and read that page to give this post some context.
Forty-six years ago when I first met my sweetheart, I had no idea that I would one day become her sole care giver. Married in 1973, Debbie and I have lived a relatively sedate lifestyle, raising two daughters and enjoying satisfying professional careers — she as a Speech/Language Therapist working with elementary school age children, and I as a Marketing Manager for a large retail store. Debbie and I were both raised in Christian families, attending Baptist church services every Sunday. Throughout our marriage, our faith in Christ has been a guiding light to us. We regularly attend a Baptist church where I serve as a deacon and run the sound system for services.
In February of 2014, our “normal” lifestyle would forever change when Debbie was given a “probable”diagnosis of FTD/PPA. Suddenly, our world came crashing down, our hopes for retirement shattered,and our dreams of enjoying our “golden years” dashed.
In addition, we suddenly found ourselves questioning our faith, demanding answers from God. How could God let this happen to us? Had God abandoned us? Quite frankly, it was difficult to not be angry with God.
I struggled, praying that God would work a miracle and cure Debbie. I believed that he had the power. After all, I believed that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and healed the blind and lame. Surely, God could reverse this terrible brain disease. When it became apparent that God was not going to answer my pleas for healing, I began to pray for understanding. For a time, I wondered if we had been abandoned or if we were being punished for our lack of faith, but, then, slowly, I began to see my wife’s disease from a different perspective.
Outwardly, nothing had changed, but I was beginning to have a greater understanding and purpose in my care giving role. Instead of complaining about my burdens, I began to see care giving as a privilege, an opportunity to serve. As Debbie became more dependent on me, I learned to love her more deeply.
Eventually, I began to believe that God was answering my prayer for understanding by evout Oimmersing me in acts of sacrificial love for my wife.
In the meantime, the Executive Pastor of our church asked me how church members could help, but I told him that I could not think of anything. At that time, I was still working full time, and had all of the bases covered – I had hired a woman to sit with Debbie part of the week, and Debbie was spending the rest of the time either at her Mother’s house or at the Adult Day Care Center.
Even so, my Pastor persisted, and two weeks after first talking to me, he told me that the congregation would begin providing meals to us. The following Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter for the past two years, there has been a prepared meal waiting for us in the church refrigerator without fail.
Another area in which I have been stretched and my faith strengthened happened after I attended a workshop for medical professionals in September, 2016. A simple question during a break led to the formation of the first AFTD affiliated support group in our state. Becoming a support group facilitator has pushed me beyond my comfort zone, and it has forced me to think beyond myself.
By serving others as a result of my wife’s disease, my faith has grown. In fact, a member of our church, who attends our support group, has called my efforts in establishing this group a ministry.
Being a care giver for someone diagnosed with an incurable brain disease is not something that I would wish on anyone. Yet, I have learned valuable lessons through the experience, and my faith continues to grow. It is easy to become discouraged and lose hope for the future, but it is my faith that sustains me through those inevitable valleys. It keeps me focused on the eternal rather than the temporal, and it helps me serve my wife as her care giver in ways that go far beyond my limited capabilities.