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.

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.

Caring for a Parent Struggling With Alcoholism

Karen had a difficult childhood growing up with her father, John, who was an alcoholic. According to Karen, she was always walking on eggshells as she never knew what would happen next. The family tried everything, including an intervention, but he simply could not stop drinking. He died at the age of 70 from alcoholism. There is a strong genetic factor to the disease as his father was also an alcoholic, who abandoned the family when John was young.

Karen and her two siblings saw their father when he was at his lowest. During that time, he passed out several times at home, and fortunately, her brother found him. John’s wife, Jean, was literally at her wits end. She turned to her priest, who suggested an intervention. Everyone in the family wrote letters, and a social worker facilitated the conversation. Karen says the letters were heartfelt, and everyone described their bottom line. At this point, Karen had three children, and she wrote that she would no longer bring her children to the family home as she could not trust her father alone with the children for safety reasons.

After the intervention, John went to a treatment center for six weeks, but his sobriety didn’t last long. It was a disease that would haunt him the rest of his life. Even with the support of his faithful wife and three children, he could not stop drinking. Eventually he lost his job as he could no longer function at work. Karen says the loss of his job was the “perfect storm” for him sinking further into the abyss.

Jean and the family attended Al-Anon meetings regularly and educated themselves about the disease, even though John did not attend AA meetings himself. They prayed fervently even when it seemed that their prayers were unanswered. It was such a difficult time for the entire family, and they often felt helpless. After his death, John’s children spoke openly about the disease. Even today, they watch the grandchildren’s behavior closely to recognize any signs of alcoholism early on.

It is important to remember that it is an illness. The modern disease theory of alcoholism states that problem drinking is sometimes caused by a disease of the brain, characterized by altered brain structure and function. The American Medical Association declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956.

Karen says, “This is truly a horrible disease that affects the entire family. It eventually cost my father everything, including his job and health. It greatly affected our family’s relationships. It is so difficult to care for someone who won’t stop drinking.” Although Karen and her family saw first-hand how totally devastating this illness can be, their prayers never stopped. In their case, it made their family closer.

What Helped:

  • Faith and fervent prayers.
  • Their priest and the social worker who helped with the intervention.
  • Al-Anon meetings.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 69:13 But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose. Answer me because of your great love, because you keep your promise to save.

Psalm 143:1 Lord, hear my prayer! In your righteousness listen to my plea; answer me in your faithfulness!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, sometimes it does seem that there isn’t an answer to our prayers. Help us to keep discouragement at bay and await Your glorious intervention. You are always in control, so we continue to turn to You with open and thankful hearts. We trust that You will not abandon us in our time of need.

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.

Caring for Triplets Plus One

Haley and Zach are the parents of four beautiful children – triplets aged two and a one year old. They consider Joshua, Hannah, Charlie Fay, and Phoebe to be their greatest blessings. Haley and Zach walked the path of infertility for three and a half years before successfully becoming pregnant with their triplets. They always knew they were meant to be parents. Throughout the multiple Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) medical fertility treatments, they prayed together each step of the way. 

During quiet prayer times, Haley felt the Lord impress the number “3” upon her mind and heart; “3, 3, 3” everywhere. Her eye would catch and pause at three flowers growing in her yard; three cupcakes on her birthday card. Even silly things would pop in her head like “the three amigos!” She was not sure of the purpose and significance of it, but she journaled it all and prayed. 

Haley and Zach finally came to the point where they felt ready for Invitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF is much more physically, emotionally and financially difficult to undergo than all the previous treatments. 

Haley says, “God works in your life during hard times. Just ask Him and He will be with you.” Haley and Zach read Scripture and listened and asked for God’s will to be done. 

The first IVF procedure failed. The two embryos that were transferred did not implant. In early June of 2015, Zach and Haley once again returned for a second round. Their patience and faith were rewarded. They had three embryos this time.

On the day of transfer, the doctor recommended that they only transfer two embryos and freeze the third for later. This is typical protocol. Medically, it is riskier to transfer more than two embryos. But all Haley and Zach could think of was the months and months of “3, 3, 3.” That still, small voice said, ” I want all three.” There was no question; all three had to be transferred together. 

With Zach by her side, the room was abuzz. On Haley’s left hand side, she could see the camera magnifying her three embryos. They actually formed a small triangle. “It’s a little cheerleading pyramid!” declared one doctor. “Never seen that before,” said another doctor. Several weeks later, Haley and Zach saw and heard the three beating hearts of their babies at their first sonogram. They were born at 33 weeks and 3 days. (More threes!) 

When the triplets were eight months old, Haley and Zach got the surprise of their lives. They were pregnant! Phoebe was born 16 months after the triplets. She is truly a blessing, and Haley reports she is an easy-going baby. Haley says, “She is a demonstration of who God is. He loves to bless his children more than we can imagine.”

Haley and Zach definitely grew in their marriage and faith before the births, and it prepared them for raising their four children. Even now they schedule date nights and were able to have one getaway weekend this year. 

They are blessed with a very supportive family who live close by and have been a tremendous help. Also, Haley said the international and non-denominational Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) Group has been a Godsend. 

Today, Haley continues to pray for, and now with, her children each day.  She has a special verse for each child, and prays aloud over them along with teaching them to pray. She also journals her prayers.

“Although I can’t be there as much as I could for one child, God can be with them when I can’t,” says Haley. She loves taking the babies on walks and enjoys the opportunity to share Christ on her walks. Haley and Zach truly live their faith and are a beautiful example of God’s blessings. 

What Has Helped:

  • Their faith and prayer life.
  • Their parents’ help.
  • The support of their community.
  • The following books:

        –  A seed of Hope: God’s Promises of Fertility by Evangeline Brown Colbert.

        – Waiting in Wonder: Growing Faith While You’re Expecting, A Devotional Journal by                        Catherine Claire Larson.

  • Moms in the Making – Online Support Group, click here   

Scripture Verse: 

Habakkuk 2: 1-3 I will stand at my watch and station myself upon the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain upon tables, so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for the blessing of these four children to parents who had faith and trusted that you would provide. You knew the plan all along. We pray that all of us can learn from Haley and Zach’s example. Only You know when the time is right. We just need to keep the faith; regardless how difficult the journey is. You never let us down.

A Season for Everything

It has been a season of bittersweet endings and new beginnings for me and my siblings. As you know, we lost both parents in a three-month time span. One of the endings was closing their home. For the past 25 years, my parents lived in an apartment on Brookhaven Golf Course with a beautiful view. The apartment was full of things that they treasured. Many of those things were hard to part with during the estate sale.  As we packed up their remaining things, I looked outside and realized that, most likely I won’t be there again. It’s hard to describe the strange feeling of being in that empty apartment where there was once so much love and caring along with the pain. While I truly rejoice that my parents are in heaven, I know that I will always miss them.

Little things make me pause like seeing the Mother’s and Father’s Day cards at the store. And Mom’s birthday is coming up.  Even grocery shopping feels odd as I no longer must shop for them. Everyone tells me that those feelings are normal and will crop up often in my new life without them. Also, I have much more time on my hands now and need to decide how to fill it.

It is a season of healing for my siblings and me. We are all adjusting to our “new normal.” We had a wonderful Easter celebration with my siblings. My husband and I stayed and talked after the big group left.  It was very relaxing and fun, as in the past we would have been concerned about getting Mom and Dad home early.  

Our estate sale was a big undertaking, and we all worked together on it. Little things would turn up like a box of my mother’s blessed medals in a little box we almost sold. My daughter, Laura, found a leather travelling bag of Dad’s. Since they shared a love of travelling, she felt that the bag was meant for her. And my son, Ryan, kept a collection of vases from Mom and some furniture from Dad.  It was very touching to watch the grandchildren go through their grandparents’ things with such reverence.

Now we are preparing for their burial in Ohio. It was their desire to be buried next to Martha, Mary’s twin, who died at 18 months of age. It will be quite a celebration with my Michigan cousins coming. We had so much fun with these cousins growing up.  A special treat for me is having Jane, my best childhood friend from our time in Ohio, come with her mother and several sisters. I have so many fond memories of Jane and her wonderful family. Her parents and mine were the best of friends, and both homes were full of fun.

I know it will be emotional for me to see Martha’s grave again. I was in college the last time we travelled to Ohio. I knelt on her grave and sobbed. I was seven years old when she died, and I remember her well. She was a calm, sweet baby, and I loved to play with her. While she has been my guardian angel throughout my life, I still grieve for her. It will be fitting, but difficult to bury my parents right next to her.

I looked up the stages of grieving, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The research says that they are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live without our loved ones. These tools help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Now, I consider myself to be somewhere between depression and acceptance. It helps tremendously that they lived long lives, and both were ready to be with the Lord.

What Has Helped:

  • Our faith in eternal life.
  • Working together as a family.
  • Videos of our family made by our wonderful cousins.

Scripture Verse

Ecclesiastes 3: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;  a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of my parents’ lives. They were each beautiful examples of caregiving. When Mom started to decline five years ago, my father stepped in and truly willed her to live. Those last five years were very difficult for him, but he never wavered in his care for her. And my sweet mom thanked him for each and every thing he did for her. We rejoice that they are reunited with their daughter and are enjoying their new eternal life. Help us to honor the memories we had as a family, and trust that we will see them again in heaven.

Coping with Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

Elaine and Jim have been married for 54 years, and she has cared for her husband for the past 10 years. He was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, but he had symptoms for the previous four years. Elaine realized early on that life as she knew it was over. She has had to adjust to “a new normal.”

As the disease progressed, Jim became increasingly agitated. He lived in the past and constantly said that he wanted to go home, not realizing that he was already there. For eight years, Elaine was able to manage as the primary caregiver with adult day care for five half-days per week. But things began to unravel as Jim had two back-to-back urinary tract infections, a fall, a blood clot, and resulting incontinence. These became game changers, and Jim’s doctor encouraged her to find a facility as Jim needed more care than Elaine could provide. Plus, Jim had Sundowner’s symptoms of late-day confusion with increased agitation. His goal became getting out of the house. Elaine had to secure their home, and she was always concerned that he might get out somehow.

Elaine says that the decision to place him in a memory care facility was painful and heart-wrenching as she felt like she was abandoning him. While she realized that Jim needed a safer environment with 24/7 caregivers, that didn’t ease the initial guilt she felt and still feels. Elaine turned to prayer, and she also received support for her decision from other caregivers and friends.

Jim is very content and safe at the facility, and he has never asked to come home. He has activities and routine, which are very important. And he has devoted caregivers whose mission is to care for him. Elaine is very appreciative of the care he receives there.

She has learned that she has to take good care of her own health in order to care for Jim. While she is there with him daily, she does take short breaks to maintain her own emotional health. Elaine sees herself as the primary advocate for his care, and that is the main part of her life. She says, “My dual purpose in life is to keep myself well so that I can oversee Jim’s care.”

Elaine describes how very draining and overwhelming caregiving is. She emphasizes that being the caregiver of a spouse is very different from caregiving as an adult child. Elaine is a very realistic person and feels that educating yourself about the disease is extremely important. Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal disease. A memory care center is just that – not a rehabilitation center. Dementia patients don’t get better. This is so difficult to accept and, in Elaine’s case, is possible only through the grace of God.

She says, “The grieving never stops. Every loss of another ability produces more grief. It is so difficult to watch Jim decline, and this is such a progressive illness.” Elaine prays that Jim finds freedom from his earthly body and its limitations. In many ways, she feels that she has already lost her husband.

Elaine walks daily and prays as she walks. She says everyone must find what works for them. Elaine is very grateful for the support she has received through caregiver friends, meetings, books, and the Alzheimer’s Association website. She has learned to say no to things that drain her energy, and she ignores criticism as it isn’t helpful.

“I have learned unconditional love of my spouse through this disease,” says Elaine. She has also learned that her relationship with the Lord is most important as she walks through this difficult journey.

What has Helped:

Elaine recommends the following books to educate yourself about this disease:

  • Coping With Alzheimer’s, by Rose Oliver, Ph.D. and Frances A. Bock, Ph.D. This book was life-changing for Elaine as it focuses on the caregiver. It truly helped her cope with the new and ongoing behaviors of her husband.
  • Loving Someone Who Has Dementia, by Pauline Boss, Ph.D.  Elaine reads this book every month or so.  It encourages her to accept that her life has changed, and that it is up to her to come to terms with the new reality
  • Untangling Alzheimer’s, by Tam Cummings, Ph.D.  This book gives a thorough understanding of this disease for family and caregivers. The end of the book deals with the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which is difficult to read.

Scripture Verses – Elaine finds the psalms especially comforting.

Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Prayer:

Dear Father, help us to remember that our strength comes from You. Help us to trust in You to handle every aspect of our life, and teach us to accept life just at is right now. Only You can give us Your peace and comfort during the deep valleys in our lives. You remain ever near to us on our journey of life.

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.

My Father’s Passing

My father, Don Bowen, passed away at age 87 on March 21st  after many years of selflessly caring for my mom, Carolyn. His only desire was to be reunited with his wife, who died recently on December 19th after 65 years of marriage. She was always front and center in our family and although we all miss her greatly, Dad grieved the most. Even though he had family and friends who visited often, he just wanted to be with Mom. He was her devoted caregiver for so many years, and his purpose for living was gone. Before he died, I told him that he would die of a broken heart – but Dad often said that he had “half a heart.” I thought that was a sweet way to describe it.

We all knew his health was declining but were very surprised to learn that he had advanced cancers throughout his body, which were diagnosed only a week before his death. He simply put my mother’s needs above his own and didn’t think about his own health. His complete focus for the last five years of her life was about meeting his wife’s every need. In short, his devotion to her and caregiving were extraordinary. That was his legacy.

I will share my father’s life story with you after his funeral. In the meantime, please keep Mom and Dad and our whole family in your prayers.

With Gratitude,

Nancy

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.