Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to visit my sister but it wasn't a social call. She and her busy pastor-husband are caring for my feeble, elderly parents in their home. I was there to be an extra pair of hands because my brother-in-law had to be out of town.
It is a 24/7 kind of job with minimal (a few hours a day) help from home health aides. It is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually heart-wrenching! It involves taking care of practical needs - day and often night - that children just don't usually have to do for parents. It involves enduring the pain of dementia and severe Parkinson's. It is losing parents who are loved, respected and honored because the bodies are there but each day and each week brings further decline and increased need for care. The reality is that having meaningful conversation or getting wise counsel is gone and never coming back!
From my earliest memory both my parents spent time each day reading the Bible and praying and having daily family "worship." Their decline - as I realized last week - includes the fact that neither ever holds their Bible to read and pray. They still attend church but never discuss meaningful things that impacted them in the service. They are no longer able to connect in that way.
There's more but you get my point................ And I know what I describe is the experience of life in many homes where one or more family members have some disability. It's real, it's demanding, it's draining, it's constant and more! Great love doesn't impact the needs or change the demands! The hearts of parents or children are twisted with all the pain and loss! Nothing is as it was meant to be! Everything is broken and needs to be fixed and the reality is that no fix will ever happen in this life. The reality is that ONLY Jesus can make all things new re His promise in Revelation 21:5 - And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. But knowing that while living in the reality of the present pain is almost impossible!I
I spent last week providing a small piece of respite care. If you don't know, respite care is providing short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. My piece last week was really support service and encouragement for my sister as well as love to my parents.
My brother, my four sisters and I along with our spouses take great joy in providing care for Mother and Daddy so they can remain at home. But mostly I'm the chicken related to the breakfast menu while my sister is the bacon big time! The chicken provides an egg and moves on to another day. The pig provides the bacon to his mortal harm. That's the HUGE difference between the rest of us and my sister and her husband!
Last week I found myself so tired that I mostly kept going knowing I would fly home and catch up. My sister would just keep going!
I understood intellectually what respite care is and does prior to last week. I know something of what it means to be pretty involved in caring for a church member or friend for an intense period of time. But I can say emphatically, I have an indelible understanding after last week that sends me to my knees to pray over and over for my parents, for my sister and her husband. I also know I need to plan to go again soon!
Life stinks and there's no getting around that for some because every day brings new, painful reminders!