A Lesson in Patience and Endurance

Maria shares her powerful story of caring for three family members over a period of 14 years. She cared for her mother with Alzheimer’s Disease for the entire time. Back then it was not a well-known or well-researched disease. Her mother had always been a kind and sweet woman, but she became another person – one who yelled and hit others. Her father didn’t understand the disease at first as he thought she was just being stubborn and unkind. But eventually he did accept the fact that she had a disease.

Maria is from Portugal where it is common practice to care for your elders, and Maria didn’t think twice about it. She also cared for her father, who had prostate cancer for five years, as well as an aunt with multiple health issues. She brought her family members into her home while also caring for her own family.

Maria says, “It was difficult spiritually, physically, and psychologically, but it was a learning experience, and I discovered my own strength.” However, she admits that she often felt overwhelmed and frustrated. She developed terrible eczema affecting her hands, which kept her from the very things that helped her relax like knitting and crocheting.

Also, her mother fell and broke a shoulder as well as a hip and was bedridden for eight years. Bedsores were always an issue, so Maria helped lift and turn her mother. She developed problems with her spine due to the heavy lifting she was doing.

Maria had also faced her own health issues. She had a tumor on her pituitary gland that she developed when she was 26 years old.  Her family has always practiced the Catholic faith. Before her mother became sick, she made the pilgrimage to Fatima to ask Our Lady to help her daughter, and her prayers were answered as Maria never needed surgery.  

The caregiving experience took a great toll on her marriage, and her husband divorced her after almost 30 years of marriage. It also alienated her daughter for a while. She faced terrible feelings of abandonment and sadness, but with God’s help, she persevered.

Fortunately, Maria is a “little energizer bunny” with a wonderful sense of humor. Also, she is slow to anger. All of these traits helped her to endure all of the difficulties in her life. She is an amazing example of faith to all who know her.

What Helped:

  • Her tremendous faith.
  • Her work as a church librarian.
  • Staying busy and active.
  • Reading Scripture.
  • Reading books about Alzheimer’s disease.

Scripture Verse

James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Prayer

God, You put beautiful examples of faith in our lives for a purpose. Maria has been a beacon of light to everyone she touches. You helped her to persevere through so many trials, and she never gave up. Help each of us to endure our own trials with patience and joy.

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A Pet’s Purpose in Caregiving

In His Care. Three simple words that I am struggling with right now. It has been a very difficult week after finding out that our precious Shelby, a seven-year-old golden retriever, has a fast-growing, inoperable cancer with a bad prognosis. It has made me think about the role our pet’s play in caregiving. My father was always a dog lover, and he had a special fondness for Shelby. Often, I would bring her along when I visited Mom and Dad, and they lit up around her. She brings pure joy to everyone she meets.

It’s no wonder that therapy dogs are so important in hospitals and nursing homes. Quite simply, they are good for the soul. They are similar to babies in that they bring happiness and smiles to people, along with relieving stress and pain. They have the ability to distract people from their problems. And that is what Shelby does for me.

Our sweet Shelby is a playful, spirited dog, but she always calms down around older people and children. After my parents died, Shelby was the one who could always cheer me up. Our pets are the perfect example of unconditional love, and I believe God has a special love for the beautiful animals that He created.

The first thing we learned about our rescue dog, Shelby, is that she is a “leaner,” meaning she leans into people petting her. We’ve had three goldens, but she is the first “leaner.” She just can’t contain her love.  Her amazing spirit got us kicked out of dog training school as she just couldn’t control her excitement about being around other people and animals.

She is a big dog who desperately wants to be a lap dog, and she climbs on the sofa trying to squeeze her way onto laps. It used to embarrass me how excited she got over anyone coming to our door, but now I see just how much she truly loves people. Each time we got to the vet, she makes new friends. Even the receptionist at our vet’s office started to cry when she saw Shelby’s pathology report.

And our pets can make us laugh. On our first outing to the dog park, she laid in the only mud puddle in the park, and she was so happy about it. I have come to love and appreciate her sense of fun.

She is so loved by our entire family. This story would not be complete without mentioning her best friend, Maisie, my daughter’s dog. When we go to Nashville to visit our two children, we take Shelby with us, and she and Maisie literally “go crazy” playing like little puppies. They are both happy and energetic playmates.

I am praying hard knowing that Shelby and I are in His care, but worries keep interrupting that thought. I am struggling with anticipatory grief, wondering how I will go on without her.  She is special, and I know I will never be able to replace her. I look at her amazing spirit and wonder if I could try to live each day as joyfully as she does. What an example she is.

When I was struggling with depression and anxiety several years ago, I could always wrap my arms around her and feel better immediately.  She is the best caregiver ever as she calms me down, even during panic attacks. Quite simply, I have received much more care from her than I have given to Shelby. I am forever in her debt.

Scripture Verses:

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

Prayer

Dear Father, we believe that we are always in Your care. Thank You for the gift and example of our pets. They provide comfort, love, and joy. Although they don’t have long lives, help us to enjoy and appreciate the time we have with them. We simply can’t repay the love they give us during their short period on earth.

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Amazing Testimony of Blind Woman

Jean is simply an extraordinary individual, who has cared for herself throughout her life.  Blind since childhood, Jean decided she would never let blindness get in the way of what she wanted to do in life. She has been totally self-sufficient and has enjoyed a full career and social life.

Jean grew up in an alcoholic family environment, and although her mother loved her deeply, she struggled with raising two other sighted children as well as an over-bearing, alcoholic, and abusive husband. So, it was decided early on that Jean would do better in a state school for the blind, and indeed, she thrived. 

Jean graduated with high grades and along with her guide dog, she soon found herself in a corporate environment with a large international corporation. She had the help of state of the art (at that time) tools for the visually impaired along with her amazing self-determination. On her own, she travelled to and from work by bus, making bus changes with her dog. When she did end up in the wrong place, she would make a joke about it. She truly inspired her colleagues.

Her friend, Rosemary, who met her at work, said, “Jean is spunky. She never has let her blindness get her down. Plus, she has always had a great sense of humor and often posts her jokes on Facebook. She truly is a remarkable person.”

As technology evolved, so did Jean’s technical level as well as her income. Always a fan of County and Western music, Jean became an avid follower of Randy Travis and joined his fan club. This led to over 200 trips across the county alone to attend his concerts in the 1980’s and for the next twenty years. She eventually met him in person. He brought her up on stage at one of his concerts, and he gave her roses and a bone for her guide dog. Jean was thrilled to say the least. Many sighted people wouldn’t be so courageous to travel so far alone.

Rosemary says that Jean also plays the keyboard by ear and loves to entertain residents of nursing homes with this special gift. She is always giving back.

Currently, Jean, who is just 66 years old, is under hospice care with a diagnosis of “failure-to-thrive.” She got an infection in June, and became severely dehydrated. Now, her body seems to be shutting down, and she is thought to have suffered a stroke. Rosemary and another friend have been helping to care for her for the past two months.

Jean truly loves the Lord and has lived her exemplary life through her great faith. An inspiration to so many, she needs our prayers now as she declines.

What Helped:

  • Reading and quoting Scripture.
  • Listening to country music, especially Randy Travis.
  • Playing music by ear.
  • Her guide dogs have been precious to her.
  • Her “never give up” attitude and corporate career.
  • Her strong friendships.
  • Playing computer games with her blind friends.

Scripture Verse

Jean’s favorite saying is: “This too shall pass.”

Mathew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.

Prayer

What an inspiration Jean is. Dear Lord, she has such a very special relationship with You. It is through her great faith that she could be self-sufficient throughout her life. She will find her reward in Your everlasting arms.

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