Caring for Everyone Throughout Her Life

Tamika is the utter definition of an amazing caregiver.  She is the oldest granddaughter in her family and was raised by her grandmother because her mother was a drug addict. At a young age, she started caregiving for her younger cousins and later in life, her grandmother and mother.  It was a pattern that would continue throughout her life.  But she had no idea how that road would twist and turn.

Her 30’s were a very difficult time. She and her husband tried for eight years to get pregnant, even going to a fertility physician.  Tamika became pregnant, but the joy was short-lived as she lost the baby 35 weeks into the pregnancy.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.  She says, “Words cannot explain the hurt I felt when I lost my child.  I did not know what God was trying to tell me.”  

She started to see another fertility physician with no success.  During this time, Tamika said her faith was tested, and she became angry with God.  Finally, they decided to stop and think about adoption.  Almost 2 1/2 years later, at age 36, she got pregnant again with a baby girl.  Then she had a big surprise later that same year, as Tamika got pregnant again with triplets, two boys and a girl.  She had four babies in one year, one in January and the triplets in November.  However, the joy was tinged with pain as going from no children to four in one year caused a lot of stress.  It was overwhelming, and she and her husband began to have marital problems.  Her husband became so overwhelmed that he left when the triplets were still infants.

While he was gone, Tamika said she was sleepwalking through life. She explains, “I needed help, but I wasn’t good at asking for it.  I knew I had to be strong just like my grandmother taught me. I was taught to never let anyone see you cry.”  She soldiered through and went back to work in order to care for her family.  

Her husband returned after almost a year, and they went to counseling and learned life lessons.  Tamika says, “We learned that when two imperfect people come together, we cannot expect perfection.  Marriage is like a plate.  Through the years, you keep adding to the plate and when things happen, it breaks.  Things in life fall everywhere.  It becomes a mess.  Then it’s up to us to glue the plate back together making it even stronger, so it can hold the same things as before plus more.”  

Today they are much happier.  They have four beautiful, healthy children, ages 5 and 4.  They have learned to be thankful for even the smallest things.  God has helped them overcome so many struggles.  Tamika says, “We have learned to love each other as God loves us.”

Tamika says that God put others, especially an aunt, neighbor, and coach, in her life at an early age to reveal God’s love for her and show her a different way of life. She says, “They helped me see that God loves me. He is a healer. I learned that life will be better if I just keep God first.”

Tamika is still working full-time, but she is fully conscious of her life now and feels wonderful.  She feels that God has prepared her to minister to others who may be going through similar situations.  Just as others helped her envision a different life, so will she inspire others.

What Helped:

  • Her true and constant faith.
  • Her church and work communities.
  • The book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

Prayer

God, you do give us the strength to soldier on when our lives feel impossible. You are a never-ending source of help. When we pass through these difficulties, we become stronger and more able to empathize with others who are struggling. Use us to minister to others in similar situations and show others Your peace and strength.

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When a Young Mother Suffers from Depression

Jane struggled with depression and anxiety throughout her teens and now at the age of 28, this terrible disease has really taken her down once again. She just had her first child and currently suffers from post-partum depression. While she truly loves her newborn, she is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for her. She has watched her friends with newborns experience so much joy, and she feels guilty that she isn’t feeling the same response.

Her doctor and psychiatrist are working together to help her, and she is in counseling.  Jane knows that she is fortunate to have so much support. Her husband has been a godsend, and her mother, Julie, has been there daily to help care for the baby.

Julie has helped in every way she knows throughout the years. “It is so very difficult to watch your child struggle with this devastating disease,” she says. “And now with a new baby here, it is even sadder since this should be a happy time.” Jane is fortunate to have a very supportive family.

Jane has had several nervous breakdowns. The first of which happened at the age of 19 when she was in college. Jane was in a verbally abusive relationship for a year, which caused her to have horrible insomnia that made the depression worse. At this young age, she really didn’t know what was happening to her. Finally, she did see a psychiatrist, who prescribed an antidepressant and medication to help her sleep. At last, her despair lifted, and she was able to make a clear decision to end the relationship. She worked with a psychologist to understand both the disease and the reasons why she chose abusive men. It was a long and arduous road. Also, she discovered that depression has a strong genetic component – depression was prevalent in her father’s family. She has two siblings who have also experienced mild depression.

“After watching my father’s relatives suffer from this disease when I was young, I prayed that I would never struggle with it,” said Jane. “Looking back I realized that I was an anxious child. I was just really good at hiding my feelings. At first I kept it a secret even from most of my friends. Actually, group therapy really helped as I finally found some people my age who were struggling too.”

Jane is working hard to overcome her current depression and become the mother she wants to be. She feels confident that with help from God and her family, she will get through this. She likes this quote from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: “What I require of you is to stay connected to Me living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic. Remember that I am with you. Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation. I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength.” 1

What Has Helped:

  • The support and love of her parents and siblings.
  • Understanding the disease.
  • The work she did and is doing with her counselor.
  • Medication has helped.

Scripture Verse:

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Prayer

Dear Father, sometimes our struggles seem insurmountable, but even in our darkest moments You are always there. See us through these dark periods as we put all our trust in You. You will set us on Your perfect path.

 1 Young, Sarah (2004). Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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Going Home

I just returned from the burial of my parents in Wauseon, Ohio where I lived for a while as a child. They were buried next to my baby sister, Martha, who died at 18 months of age. It turned out to be a perfect day – beautiful and sunny.  All of my Michigan cousins came, along with my childhood best friend from Ohio and her family. Although I was apprehensive about this day, it turned out to be lovely. It helped tremendously to be surrounded by others who loved Mom and Dad so much. We had a touching burial service, followed by lunch as a big group. Everyone had memories to share, and we laughed a lot.

I have my own special memories of my childhood in Ohio.  My best friend, Jane, and I reminisced about constantly dressing up as movie stars by borrowing her mother’s clothes and heels when we were young. We performed very dramatic imitations of Sandra Dee and Annette Funicello. We actually pretended that telephone poles were our boyfriends, and we were often found hugging and kissing the poles. Jane’s mother and sisters still get a good laugh from those memories. Jane is the type of friend with whom you pick right back up. If she lived closer, we would be the best of friends again. I am grateful to know her and her wonderful family of five girls. My Mom and Dad considered her parents their best friends, and they stayed in close touch for over 60 years.

This is the end of an era for both my Mom and Dad.  All of their siblings on Mom’s side are gone, and Dad was an only child. Two of my cousins created beautiful DVDs of the lives of my parents and relatives. We watched these DVDs for hours one afternoon, and are so thankful for the effort that took. There were so many memories of the fun times with our special cousins growing up along with the many trips we took. We looked forward to those trips planned every summer by our parents. Since I hadn’t seen these cousins in 20 years, it was so wonderful to catch up and to reminisce. They are as fun and funny as ever. While we shed some tears, we laughed more, putting even the difficult times in perspective. I am so appreciative of their love and sense of fun throughout my life.

While my husband and I drove around Wauseon, we discussed how different my life would have been if I had stayed there. The people in Wauseon were literally the salt of the earth. The corn fields throughout the town are still there, as they were in our backyard at our home. The town square is so much smaller than I remember. The homes are smaller too with people sitting out on their front porches enjoying the day. It felt like a much simpler life than mine here in Dallas. I know my parents were truly happy living there and had many amazing life-long friends. Those friends were there in happy times and sad, especially when Martha died. Mom and Dad remained close to them even taking trips with these couples over the years.

As I watch so many new lives coming into the world through new grandchildren, I feel like the circle of life is complete. Mom and Dad had good, long lives and are enjoying everlasting life with the Lord. Things are as they should be, and I am at peace.

What Helped:

  • Our belief in everlasting life.
  • Our wonderful cousins and friends.
  • The faith and values that our parents taught us.

Scripture Verse:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gifts you have given us, especially the gift of our parent’s love. Their burial was a beautiful and joyful reminder of how much they were loved by so many. Thank you for the absolute peace and joy of that day.

Click here to listen to a beautiful song about remembering our loved ones.

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Celebration of an Extraordinary Caregiver’s Life

We just celebrated the life of Donald Bowen, our father. I would like to share a snapshot of his life with all of you, my dear friends.

Dad was born on Oct. 30, 1929 to Theodora and Aaron Bowen in Detroit, Michigan.  Dad did not have an easy childhood. He was an only child and took on the tremendous responsibility of caregiver for his mother at a very young age when his father left the family. He and his mother moved frequently, which meant that he often had to change schools, making friendships difficult to maintain.

He married when he was only 21 years old to Carolyn Karrer, who was the love of his life. He told her from the beginning that he wanted a large family so that he could experience being part of one. He wanted what he hadn’t experienced as an only child. He wanted fun, laughter and stories to tell, and he definitely got his wish. The Bowen stories are countless – nothing is off limits, including his funeral notes! Just one that I can’t resist sharing. He asked to be cremated, and my brother, Dave, was chosen to be the keeper of the ashes. In his funeral notes, he told Dave to keep his hands off the ashes! That was Dad – he had a wicked sense of humor, and he always had the last word.

The six children include: Nancy, Bob, twins Mary and Martha, David, and Jim. He faced a parent’s worst nightmare when Martha, my sister’s twin, died suddenly at 18 months of age. He was the one who was called to the hospital when she was dying. After her death, he had a difficult time speaking about her.

He especially loved having grandchildren. Each one was special, and he loved sharing stories with them. My son, Ryan, came home to see him the weekend before he died. What a great day they had recounting those memories together. He was a great grandpa and mentor to all of them.

He loved to travel. My daughter, Laura, says that her last long conversation with Dad was about trips he took. She was in France when he passed away, so she toasted her grandpa one more time from there. As a family growing up, we had countless camping, beach, and skiing trips, and typically our cousins from Michigan would come too. Often we would have seven kids, two dogs, along with Mom and Dad in a pop-up trailer. To this day, we love to recount funny memories from those times.

He also loved animals and always wished that he could have been a veterinarian. As a matter of fact, he hung a picture of our beagle, Holly, above the mantel where we told him the family picture should have been.

Dad was a champion labor negotiator with a difficult job that involved a lot of travelling. He could be tough as nails during those negotiations, but he always had a kind heart. He was a stern father, but we never doubted that he loved us. He was a man with a strong will who ran the show until the end. When he was admitted to the hospital during his last week with us, he immediately told the nurse to put a sign on the door saying not to awake him before 8 a.m.  That was true Dad.

We found an absolute treasure in his personal belongings. My father wasn’t much of a writer, but he had handwritten personal letters to each of us, including Mom, awhile back. The gift of those notes was  priceless to us!

We also all enjoyed reading his handwritten notes about his funeral. The first thing he said was to make it joyful. He said he hoped to see his God and would wait to see each of us. He also said that he wanted an Irish wake style funeral complete with funny stories and toasts.

He ended his notes with this paragraph, labelled “The Most Important.” He said, “How fortunate that I married young to my lovely wife, and we have the most beautiful children God could give us. Each one of you have made me proud and how much I love all of you, including the in-laws. My love to each of my grandchildren whom I deeply love. Remember me in your prayers.”

What Has Helped:

  • Faith and prayers help the most.
  • Family and friends.
  • Remembering our stories.
  • Reading his funeral notes.
  • Reading his handwritten letters to each of us.

Scripture Verses – These two verses seemed symbolic:

Jeremiah 8:18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. (upon Mom’s death)

II Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (upon his death)

Prayer

Dear Father, please comfort the caregivers who are grieving. Many of them are living in darkness right now. Help them to feel Your constant presence. You never desert us – rather Your love and peace surround us always. Bless our family with the knowledge that our parents are together again and with Martha, too. We thank you for the time we had with them on this earth. Help us to live our lives as a tribute to them.

A heartfelt thank you to all of our family and friends for your support and prayers during this difficult time with losing both parents. Your love and friendship have meant the world to us.

Please click here to listen to a beautiful song perfectly suited for our parents.

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Prayer Request for My Family

Dear readers and friends, I ask for your prayers as my siblings and I move my father from the hospital into a facility this week. I know so many of you have faced this same situation. Plus, I am also dealing with my own chronic, painful medical problem that has yet to be resolved. Please pray for peace and healing for my father and myself, and strength for our family.  I will post again soon after the transition. Thank you for your prayers as I give this to God and put my trust in Him.

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When the Caregiving Ends and the Grief Begins

As you know, my dear mother passed away a month ago, and I feel the need to talk about grief. Although Mom’s quality of life was not good for the past five years and we are assured that she is in heaven, we greatly miss her physical presence. I miss talking to her on the phone daily, and visiting her in their home. Their apartment is so empty feeling now. But mostly I see my father’s deep grief after 65 years of marriage and many years of amazing caregiving. His whole purpose revolved around Mom’s needs, and now that she is gone, he is feeling lost without her. He has lost the love of his life. He needs to cry. Intellectually I know that, but I want so badly to help him feel better. I don’t know how to ease his loneliness, and I often feel helpless. I realize that grief is a process and that he will never “get over her,” but life will go on.

I think that the end of the holidays makes it worse. One little thing that helped me is right after I packed up Christmas ornaments, I put up Valentine’s decorations so that I would have a new holiday to look forward to. I love to decorate, and that brought me joy. Also the planning of her service helped give us a purpose, but now that is done. Now we must learn to live without our angel.

I am trying to practice my mother’s greatest virtue of gratitude each day, and that is my goal for this new year. Also, I have become very sensitive to gossip and negativity as she taught us not to speak badly about others.

My cousins created two beautiful videos – one of Mom’s family and one of our family. We have watched them repeatedly and they are a beautiful reminder of Mom’s youth and also remind us of the fun times we had when we were growing up. Mom was always front and center in the pictures flashing her larger than life smile.

My comfort is that I can feel her presence, especially at night when sleep won’t come.  I try to feel her arms around me. I remember during the last days of her life how she told me she was ready to go home. She asked for Jesus to take her. I know she was ready, but I wonder how really ready we were.  Are you ever ready to lose a parent, particularly a sweet mother who was such an inspiration?

One of my Bible study friends gave me a small book, titled C.S. Lewis On Grief. Lewis also lost his wife. This quote seemed to reiterate what my father is feeling. It says, “You tell me ‘she goes on’. But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the arguments, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace… It is a part of the past.”1   

We are fortunate to have three siblings here to be with Dad, and he has good friends who get him out of the apartment. I think about others who are grieving who may not have that kind of help available. I cannot imagine the loneliness that they must feel. But Scripture tells us that God is right there with us to help us through our grief.

What Helps:

  • Friends and relatives are simply invaluable.
  • Our priest and church members.
  • Devotionals and prayer.
  • Grief counseling and a grief support group.
  • For me, writing this blog helps me tremendously as I know so many of you can relate to these emotions.

Scripture Verses About Grief:

Mathew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Jeremiah 31:13 I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Prayer: Dear Father, I pray for all those who are grieving right now, and especially for my Father, that You will see them through their pain and suffering. Send Your comforting spirit to be with them.  Give them Your peace which transcends all suffering.

Lewis, C.S.  (1998). C.S. Lewis On Grief. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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My Mother’s Legacy

Carolyn Bowen is no longer terminal; she is now ETERNAL!

My precious mother went to be with the Lord on December 19 after many years of suffering. She passed away peacefully in her sleep, which was an answer to our prayers. I want to share some of her eulogy with all of you as she was an extraordinary woman and leaves an amazing legacy.

Our Mom was the definition of gratitude, compassion, kindness, and endless faith.  The word, “thank you” was always on her lips for every little thing done for her.  Dad must have heard thank you 100 times a day as he cared for her for the past five years, even when she was in pain.

Mom was born on July 16, 1924 to a large family.  She was the fifth of six children born to Benjamin and Mary Karrer in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a homemaker. The Karrer family was fun, and she was the mischievous one, who always had a multitude of friends who remained friends for life. For Carolyn, once a friend, always a friend. Her siblings frequently told stories of her antics.  Our Dad remembers her being a pistol when he met her. At one of their first parties together, he found her smoking a cigar with the guys!

Mom had a huge smile that lit up the room.  And she wore that smile continuously until her final breath.  It was the physical companion to the love she showed to everyone.  She also held a rare and genuine skill – an interest in you, she asked and listened.  She treasured relationships – hers and ours.

All of our friends were welcome at our home; she was gracious and kind to everyone.  She was known as the fun Mom.  Our Michigan cousins came every summer because they had such a great time at our home and came with us on numerous family camping trips.  We have countless Bowen stories. Isn’t that what life is about – shared stories!  And our Mom was front and center in them.

She was always there for us. She often got up early to help the boys with their paper routes, and she listened intently to any friend trouble that my sister and I had. And she was always sending cards of encouragement to family and friends.

And of course, she was the fun grandma too.  She loved to bake and would bring bags of cookie makings whenever she babysat. Making Christmas cookies was an annual tradition. They remember her always praying both for and with them for any of their intentions. Before Mom had heart valve surgery, doctors explained that the size of her heart is about the size of her fist.  Her grandson said, “No Daddy, Nana has a big heart, just look at how kind she is.”

Her daughter and sons-in-law felt immediately welcomed into our family. She just had a way of making everyone feel cherished.  She was never pretentious or judgmental, and we never heard her gossip.  People referred to her as St. Carolyn or an angel on earth!  And that was our reality, although she always denied it.  Her gentle redirection from someone being negative always began with “Oh now.”

Her faith was greatly tested when she and Dad lost Mary’s twin sister, Martha, at 18 months old.   Soldiering on, we remember Mom constantly telling all of us that now we had an angel sister in heaven, who would be our guardian angel forever.  Her incredible faith helped her through the tragedy of a parent’s worst kind of loss.

Remembrances would not be complete without describing the marriage of 65 years with Don.  During their 65th anniversary at church, she had that huge smile on her face as she greeted friends.  Our dad was the most amazing caregiver, particularly during the past five years through Mom’s heart surgery, strokes, cancer, and finally a broken hip.  He never faltered in his care and love for her. His care was the inspiration behind this blog. “Well done, Dad.”

So many of you were recipients of her love through babysitting, a prayer card, holy card, religious artifact of any kind, a bluebird of happiness, a personal note that lifted your spirits, a personal touch, or knew you were the beneficiary of her prayers. That’s what Mom did – she fed our spirits and our souls. This is our mother’s legacy, you are her legacy and for many more who could not be here today, pass it forward.

We are called to model our lives after our Lord.  Mom was constantly loving and serving everyone she met. She picked up her crosses every day with a grateful heart. Mom watered and practiced her faith in her life and deeds. She never judged or complained. Mom went to her reward in full confidence of her faith.  

In one word, she was extra-ordinary. We are sure that when she entered heaven, the Lord said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Yes, well done, Mom. Our little angel on earth is now an angel in heaven.

Click here to listen to this beautiful song that touched our hearts. 

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Caregiving Lessons: From Anger to Peace and Gratitude

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Carol has an amazing story of caregiving for a mother and husband. Her story begins caring for her mother from ages 90 through 95 in her home. When her mother started to fall and broke her shoulder and then her hip, she had to put her mom in a facility. However, Carol was there every day to be with her. She died after her 95th birthday. She had a long and beautiful life, but she was very confused towards the end.

During this period, they discovered that her husband had prostate cancer and squamous cell throat cancer. He decided to do alternative rather than traditional treatments and decided not to do surgery. Carol cared for him during those difficult five years. Carol had to manage a feeding tube and catheter during that time, along with blending special food for him. They had Hospice towards the end from March 2010, and he passed away in August. They had 30 wonderful years together, but the last two years were very difficult. Since he wasn’t able to speak, he would write her messages, such as “You are my rock. You and your smile keep me going.”

Carol was very experienced in difficult situations. Her dear sister had died at age 33 from a brain tumor, which went undiagnosed by six doctors, leaving her three children behind. Carol was angry, so much so that her Southern Baptist faith failed her. Her anger lasted for years, and she couldn’t find peace. She sent her children to church, but she stayed away.

In addition, her son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 28. He is now 42 years old and has an amazing attitude. Carol has come to peace with that just as her son has.

Carol says, “In May 2010, I hit a wall. I was exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My spirituality was at zero.” She says she struggled greatly with self judgement and guilt.

During that period, she realized that she needed to find a church, and God provided one. The minute she walked into Lakewood United Methodist, she knew she was “home.” She says, “This is where I’m supposed to be. I have a wonderful female pastor, incredible Bible studies, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities like serving dinners to the homeless.” Plus, it met her requirement of being 10 minutes from her home, so she could be close by for her husband. This church changed her life, and she finally found peace and hope there.

She also found the perfect job for her. She had experience working with seniors during her years of working in insurance. She found a part-time job with Seniors Helping Seniors® Services. She has the utmost respect for the husband and wife for whom she works. They provided training for the job, and she has the flexibility to schedule her hours. All the years of caregiving fit perfectly into this job. She really knows first-hand what these caregivers are going through and what they need. She watches the patients, so that the caregivers can run errands and get out.       

Carol says, “We have to be open and listen with our whole being to what God has in store for us. It is often in the quiet where we find God.” Daily prayer has become second nature for Carol, and she continually prays with a grateful heart. God has brought her full circle.

Scripture Verse

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (From The Harper Collins Study Bible, which Carol likes.) 

What Helped:

  • Her wonderful church that was perfect for her in every way.
  • Her job.
  • She recommends the following books:

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.

When God Winks by Squire Rushnell

Listen: Praying in a Noisy World by Rueben P. Job

Prayer

Dear Father, You blessed Carol with amazing patience, kindness, and endurance. She relied on You to put her where You wanted her in the right church and the right job. You healed her anger, brought her back to You, and gave her peace.

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Caring for a Husband with Parkinson’s Disease for 16 Years

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Carol and Jim were married for 66 years, and it was a true love story. However, the last 16 years were difficult since Jim suffered from Parkinson’s, and Carol was his primary caregiver. She cared for Jim with constant love during all those years. She says, “Jim was easy to care for. He was always upbeat and funny, and drew people to him. Plus, he had always taken such incredible care of our family, so I just returned the care.”

She says routine was the most important piece of the puzzle. Since she was an occupational therapist, she helped Jim exercise each morning before he got out of bed. Jim was always compliant and came to expect the stretches and the machine that helped him move his arms and feet. Carol also helped him practice writing and used the calendar to show him the passing of time each day.

Carol tried to make each day special. She planned frequent outings for him so he had something to look forward to. They also spent time outside relaxing as they had a lovely lake behind their house.  Carol was a fabulous cook and always made special meals along with Jim’s favorite desserts. Another thing that helped was their precious dog, who brought them joy.

She had a wonderful helper during the day, but Carol took over when the aide left. Of course, the nighttime wasn’t easy. One of the issues they faced was that some of his medications gave him hallucinations, but Carol could always console him and bring him back to reality.

She stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning, so she could turn him to prevent bed sores, and she slept on a small sofa near him so that he could have the bed to himself. Simply put, Carol was not a complainer despite all the difficulties they faced. Although caregiving was exhausting, she focused on her love for Jim and worked to remain positive.

Jim and Carol were staunch Catholics and prayed together each night saying the rosary and other prayers. They had an extremely strong faith that God was with them. Their church was an important part of their lives. Their friends at church helped build a shower for Jim on the main floor, since they had a two story home. Their priest was very helpful too.

Carol had a cousin in Dallas, who was very dear to them. Her cousin, George, helped them find a good doctor in Michigan, who specialized in Parkinson’s disease. George found him through the Veterans Association since Jim was a WWII veteran. They made many trips to Dallas, and George and his wife travelled to Michigan. The last time the two couples were together, Jim broke down and cried as if he knew it would be the last time.

Jim passed away two years ago, and Carol, at 90 years of age, is still living in their home and misses him deeply. She still feels fortunate that she was able to care for him for all those years.

What Helped:

  • The prayers that they said each evening along with the rosary.
  • Jim’s sense of humor – they laughed easily together.
  • Their church, including the priest and friends.
  • The wonderful aide who was there during the day.
  • Their precious dog.

Scripture Verse

John 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Prayer

Help us to remain steadfast in our love and care for others. Let us see Carol as an example of true love. She didn’t complain and always looked at the positive. As we approach Thanksgiving, we see that Carol had the true gift of gratitude for the blessing of Jim. Help us to thank you Lord, even for our trials as You carry them with us.

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Raising a Precious, Special Child with Autism

chase

Chase is a beautiful and loving child, who was diagnosed with autism at 20 months of age by a neuropsychologist. But his mother, Tania, knew that something was different much earlier as he wasn’t speaking and had atypical physical behaviors, such as being fascinated by the pattern of light and shadow in a play area rather than the play equipment. Tania was not surprised or devastated by the diagnosis. Instead, she immersed herself into the flood of literature about autism, its theories, and therapies. Tania is a very proactive person who looks for answers. She quit her corporate job as she also had a seven year old child and a one year old child at home at the time. She considers herself very fortunate to have been able to stay at home with all of them, and she credits Chase for that decision.

Simultaneously, through family, she was blessed to connect with a graduate professor at the University of North Texas who specialized in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to treat autism, particularly in early childhood. Chase’s program over the next three years consisted of one-on-one therapy for up to 40 hours a week. Tania calls these teachers “angels” as their commitment to Chase and the family was life-changing. Tania believed that the development of language must be pursued relentlessly. Windows of opportunity exist for language development, and the first of these closes by the age of five or six.

As Chase has matured, Tania has witnessed how important it is for him to be able to express himself. She says, “Not only does language allow for further learning in all realms of life, but when a child understands his emotions and can express him or herself, the child can avoid frustration and tantrums.  As a family, we experience the positive impact of his continuing development of language on a daily basis.”

When Chase became school age, she and her devoted husband, Philip, explored the special education program their school district had to offer. They quickly discovered that the quality of services provided by the state isn’t consistent. Tania says, “I know of many families who moved their households, even out of state, to receive adequate support from the system.” She and her husband moved locally to Northwest Independent School District. It was there that they were blessed to make another wonderful connection – Chase’s lead teacher for the next few years was highly effective in the classroom and became one of Tania’s best friends.

Tania admits that she was fearful of Chase being teased or harassed by other children. Personally, she certainly experienced dirty looks from other parents and adults when Chase was undergoing a major meltdown out in public. These meltdowns would consist of screaming, running, jumping, hitting, sometimes cussing, and fortunately no longer, spitting.

Interestingly, when Chase was younger, negative responses from members in the community were more frequent and seemingly more judgmental.  Partially, she attributes this to Chase’s appearance, for his appearance alone does not reveal his developmental disorder. She thinks others might have wondered, “What is wrong with that kid? Why can’t those parents get their kid under control? Geez, get that kid out of here so I can enjoy my dinner out.”

She explains, “But for us, as well as others who have a special needs family member, we don’t want to have to hide at home.  We believe that our family as a whole, as well as the special needs person, deserve the opportunity to be members of our communities.”

Chase is now a sophomore in high school.  The staff and students at his current school are quite supportive.  Last year at Byron Nelson High School, the Senior Prom King and Queen were two members from his special needs class.  Tania believes the culture has changed.  In her high school experience, this would have never happened.  She stresses the importance of inclusion for persons of special needs in our communities and schools.  And she believes in a reciprocal benefit for typical children and adults from their exposure to and experience of what atypical persons can offer.   

For the most part, these days, the community does seem welcoming of Chase’s differences. For example, Chase’s odd behavior includes asking a stranger if they have a Wii, a PlayStation 2, a PlayStation 3, a PlayStation 4, an Xbox, and DVD player, consecutively. At first, the stranger may raise their eyebrow with confusion, but then they do have an “aha” moment and play the game, answering in succession, “No, I don’t have a Wii, no PlayStation. Yes, I do have a DVD player. It’s in my living room.”

Tania says, “Experiences like these make us laugh.  And truly, the emotions we experience as we parent Chase are quite similar to those we have with our now other three children.  Yet, the circumstances themselves are decidedly different and perhaps atypical.  Then again, each of our children, in fact, all children are very different from one another.”

Undeniably and as with all families, challenges exist. Tania’s fears include the possible negative effects her other children have endured surrounding the difficulties of having a special needs brother.  And sometimes she fears for the future of Chase’s well-being, knowing she and Philip will age and will no longer be capable of caring for him.

She says, “Nonetheless, when I consider the impact of having a special needs child, I face that much in life is relative, and one’s experience is hugely dependent on one’s perspective.  I choose to focus on the positives of life whenever possible.  Chase’s birth allowed me to be a “stay at home mom” for all of my children.  Chase has experienced loving and highly effective educational support that has brought friends and families together.  The experiences Chase brings to our family, just as what each family member offers, define us.  I have always wished for my children to be happy and healthy.  And through our combined experiences, I believe this ideal is achieved.”

What Helped:

  • This family’s beautiful perspective on caring for a special needs child.
  • The book, Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic, by Martha Beck.
  • ABA therapy and a good school environment.
  • Teachers who were like angels to this family.

Scripture Verse:

1 John 4:11-12. Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, help us to remember we are all your children regardless of our differences. You love all of us equally. Help us to embrace our differences and live together with love and gratitude every day.

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