I Had No Idea

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I had no idea.

Not a single thought, or wandering moment, when I considered the choice before me. My heart had already spoke before the words came off my lips. “Yes, yes, I will do this.” I believed in the choice before me. I knew it was right. I understood their would be sacrifice. I envisioned, I suppose, what my days might encompass Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this past year as a mother, as a wife, as a woman- who chose to be a caregiver.

I find deep joy in giving to others. It’s second nature to me. It’s who I am. I believe in good. I believe in people. I believe in loving them to the best of your ability. Offering love and compassion to someone is a gift – having the honor to do so in their final days on this earth – indescribable. Regardless of my beliefs, nothing could prepare me for the months that would follow.

I really had no idea.

This was a time when believing in what you thought was right turned your feelings and thoughts into action – you just do. I thought I had the strength, the fortitude, to march onward. Although I had no knowledge of what lay before me, I believed I would be able to withstand the pressure. But whom can prepare you for moments like these in your life?

Looking back on it now, if you had told me then what it would be like, perhaps giving me descriptions and details of what would unfold – I may have made a different choice. I probably would have wanted someone else to come in and do all the work. Because there was no way  I was going to be able to handle it all. The daily grind of medication administration, personal care giving, driving to appointments/treatment, the constant need for attention. Working 16 hour days – day after day, week after week, month after month.

Oh.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of the burden would lay at my feet. I assumed it would be a family affair – sharing responsibilities between us as we worked together. At times it was as we combined efforts to divvy up responsibilities, but that was short lived. It was my wonderful husband, whose plate was already overflowing, who worked so hard to help shoulder the burden that lay before us. This was a new journey we were walking, together. 

The exhaustion would envelope me daily as I crashed upon the bed hoping to find some reprise and rest. I pushed through days savoring gentle moments of God’s presence with me. Seeing the sunrise and witnessing the start of another day, I would snap a quick photo to remind me why I was here. That God called me to these moments. I was learning to be still – to rest – to trust. To allow the situation to unfold and know that I have absolutely no control, this had to be okay. It was beyond time for me to learn how to be. Being still in the knowledge that these moments, no matter how crazy they are, are precious gifts from the Hand of the Almighty Father.

I was walking a path filled with instances of God breathing life into long ago dead places. When His Presence becomes known. Where His fingerprints become your marking. When you are planted in peace that permeates your soul. Your purpose clear, the calm present, a gift from the throne room of heaven.. Whispering as you collapse into God’s tender embrace, you begin to feel His love, know His love, be His love. Your existence no longer becomes about what you do – but who you are – bellowing out for all the world to hear. You are there, you are here – you are. Somehow in the everydayness of caregiving, you became cared for.

I had no idea.

This journey has been so much more than a physical one. Facing your final days on this earth your focus begins to shift as you pause and reflect on what is of most importance. All that you had invested in comes crashing down. The security you put in your bank account or shored up property can’t erase the fact that death is knocking at your door. Questioning your choices in life, you ask some very hard questions. Hoping to ease your heart, your mind and your eternal soul, you search for answers where only God holds the key.

Tending to your soul is of primal important in these precious days, what a privilege to alongside you. Emotional times spring forth as we talk about the value of life. All pretense began to drop as you face the reality that death is coming – soon. Gentle times of togetherness, laughter among family and friends and the truth spoken brings calm to anxiety filled hearts.

I had no idea.

None. Nada. Zip. That the emotional journey I would embark on during this caregiving time would take such a tremendous toll on my life.  I didn’t bargain for the way your story became my own. I didn’t know that your pain would be so unbearable to witness. I didn’t plan that the days which followed your death would immobilize me so very much. Your death became a part of my own – for a part of my old self passed along with you.

My body, my mind and my spirit are all eager for rest. Not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally and spiritually too.  I am forever changed by these days of sacrifice, that’s the wonderful thing about love – it changes you. I am hopeful for healing. I am waiting for peace to reside. I am quiet as I listen. I continue in the practices You wrote upon my heart God, each day looking to You, for You and being with You.  I know you are here and I am enough because I am Yours..

God needed to be my life source and keep me going. He was the fuel to my engine for each day. It was just my job to wake up and move. To glance out that window and remember who was in charge. Then let Him be that one. My purpose was to rest. My aim, to trust. My hope, to live. It sounds so simple now, like some quick and easy plan or mathematical equation we often use to define our spiritual selves. Like study + prayer = Peace – who believes the eternal God who created the universe and calls each of us home in His time, can be summed up in a + b = c? How finite our minds are! During these long days that stretched into months,  I didn’t have time to study. There weren’t moments for long winded prayers. I gasped for prayer like I was gulping down air. I needed oxygen to breath and I needed His Spirit to fill me. Period.

I had no idea.

Of the blessings that would flow. Of the depths to which your love would reach me. Of the truth that your ways are higher than my ways releases me from imposing my own way on others. I am free. Because of you and my relationship with you, I am free. You are more than a ticket to heaven later, you are the life giving force in my life now. Here. Today.

We serve an infinite God! He chooses to love us in intimate and personal ways. Speaking to our hearts and our minds. He brings clarity to our thoughts. He brings hope to our musings. He is more than words on a page. He is more than an answer to prayer. He is. The Almighty God is over all and wants to bring peace and build quiet places where we live, where you live, where I live – today.

My body may be weak, my emotions may vacillate but my hope is in God. Would you put your hope in Him today? His arms are large enough to hold you. His heart beats for you, empathizes with you, loves you. Yes – you. So, don’t wonder if you are good enough. Life is too short and precious to focus our energies and our vision on our weaknesses, our shortcomings and our missed opportunities. Don’t belabor the choices you have made already in your life. Seek God out, He is enough.

All this time, I had no idea.

I Am Not Ready

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I walked outside and felt the sun upon my face. It’s been a few days since I felt its warmth. It wrapped me up like a blanket, touching my face and my heart. I needed it’s warmth. I took a deep breath and looked at that blue sky and wondered how it could look the same when all inside my heart felt so different.

As we emerged from the Hospice House, I had family come walking towards me. Normally a light and happy feeling, today felt like a deep pain inside of me. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find any words, so I just kept on walking straight to the car. How had the warmth of the sun I had just felt become so cold?

It hit me then in that moment, as it has many more since then – that life goes on no matter what happens in your own. People will still gather together, enjoying meals, laughing, telling jokes. Working, playing, living – that is the nature of life. It’s meant to be lived.

Even in death.

I had just witnessed someone I dearly love loose their battle with cancer. They had fought  very long as they faced the disease that would finally claim their life. As I said goodbye for the final time, I was overcome with the emotions that saying goodbye really means. This isn’t a TV show you turn on and off at a whim, or some internet sensation you can google to learn more about them, this is not temporary, but final. This is life – and his was ending.

Somehow sitting around talking about the weather, the news, the current state of politics, or any other subject just doesn’t matter. It was all minutiae in comparison to the deeper questions we had been facing. We had been talking about life and death, embracing the precious journey of having one foot in this life and one in the hereafter. Moments were sacred. Time was precious. Love is eternal.

We all have a journey in life and this was his to walk.  I was humbled and so honored to be a part of his story. Touched to be trusted with tender moments that I will never share again. Forever changed by the authenticity and the humility that comes in facing death. If you are blessed to walk this road, standing beside them from this life into the next – it’s a gift.

Embrace it.

Do not fear the difficult days, the hard work of love, the sleepless nights nor endless days of activity and probably stress.. There will be painful moments of grief that tear apart your soul. Ripping at who you thought you were and inviting you to step even deeper into the presence of God. This road is not something to be taken lightly. Countless hours of doctor’s appointments, treatment, travel time, injections, TPN administration, medication, organization, physical, emotional and relational assistance. It wasn’t a blur – it was a hurricane.

Yet, oh yet… there were moments of deep conversations, laughter that came from deep in your soul.  Times of reminiscing and rememberance. Moments of regret and of wonderful forgiveness. Oneness like never experienced before. Family that bonded in new ways. A treasure which anchors your soul. Love heals and love hurts.,

It hurts to give sacrificially, it hurts to give it your all, it hurts to love in deep ways over long periods of time – it just hurts. This pain doesn’t go away overnight. There is no easement of the grief as the people who surrounded you during the memorial services leave your side. It doesn’t subside when the grave is covered up with dirt. Grief lives when you love, why would I expect it or want it any other way?

So, if you are reading this – I am not ready.

I wasn’t ready that first day standing in the sunshine and I am not ready today. Don’t invite me to a crowd or gathering, I probably won’t come. I am not ready to be around people. I am not ready for the questions that may come. That very first day I said goodbye, I didn’t want to talk and it’s still true today. The grief is suffocating, the loss too raw. I am not the same person and I pray I remain forever changed by the gift of the relationship that emerged in these months of service.

In time – love will heal, love will reignite the spark, love will bind up the wounds. But for now, I choose to embrace the pain and not run from it. Be brave, like he was. Honor his memory by fully feeling the loss of his place in my life and the life of my family. It won’t bring him back, oh no. But it will allow me to process through the depths of pain that come in losing someone so dear. So when the time is right, I will fully laugh and love anew again.

Just not now.

Think whatever you’d like about how to handle this grief. Encourage me or not, that’s your choice. I have no control over your thoughts or your perception of me. Just remember, it’s not your place to tell how me to grieve. You can honor me, and the memory of the one I loved and cared for – by accepting me for who I am. It’s time character trumps duty, grace more than works – love overall. All.

That was the gift of these precious months as his health declined and his body gave out. Authenticity. Realness. Honesty. Openness. I may not be ready to live again, as most people would define their day to day. Certainly not ready for crowds of people. Ready for conversations about what seems to me trivial things. I just may not be much fun for a while. Oh well – deal.

Love me, or not.

That’s your call, this one is  already deeply entrenched in my own heart. Love me unconditionally. Places no strings upon me. No expectations on how to handle life. No quick prayers that all will be okay. I challenge you today – to love. Truly, give deeply of yourself and your heart – and love.

Let go of the past. Let go of your anger. Let go or your bitterness. Let go of your unforgiveness. Those dark places in our hearts we all fear to admit even exist. Let it all go. Rest in the promise that love can heal. That love is enough. My friends, it’s time to experience love. To receive love. To feel love for others. To give in ways you never expected. To see with new eyes that every heart is hurting and it is only love that carves into the trenches of hearts and heals.

How?

By trusting others. By giving in new ways. By accepting someone for who they are. Do you struggle in really loving? Do you gossip and slander those you say you love? Do you harbor resentment and bitterness? Are you selfish with your time? Do you waylay your energy? Shift your focus? It’s hard to offer unconditional love. It’s so hard to bring compassion into places that may have never experienced them before. I encourage you, I challenge you. Do it.

There is a beautiful treasure that lies within a heart, let God dig in you. Give to yourself and to others. Most of all, honor those whose lives you stand upon, who came before you and loved you when no one else would. Yes, I am grieving, but grieving is a part of love.

Love anyway.