Friday, October 2, 2015

Being a wife and caregiver



On October 1, 2014 I posted this to friends and family:
“… God has blessed me with the bigger challenge of being a caretaker to my beloved.”

Reading this again brought back such a flood of memories. It also had me laughing as I realized I’d turned my late husband into property by saying “caretaker to my beloved”, instead of careGIVER to my beloved. Fortunately for me, my beloved had a wonderful sense of humor and would have laughed over my mistype. In fact, he likely would have made a joke about it and teased me for weeks.

Still, this also had me wondering if maybe I’d been wrong in becoming my husbands caregiver as well as wife, rather than just his wife. Did I short change him emotionally? Did he need better physical care than I was able to give him? I seem to worry over these things lately, and I’m not sure exactly why. I just know I do. To help me work through this, I started retracing what took place.

In the summer of 2013, my late-husband began having some health issues, but we shrugged them off as they seemed minor and didn’t really impact his daily living. There were many days where he simply felt tired and so I did the shopping by myself while Mac waited in the car. Still, he was doing all the driving and enjoying all his normal activities. The holidays of 2013 were odd as Mac just wasn’t himself and didn’t seem to enjoy our normal activities and visits with friends. By the end of 2013, we were “just us” more and more often. I suggested he see our doctor, but he said he felt okay and it was just a bit of getting older. 

Then in January 2014 the unthinkable happened—Mac woke up one day and made an appointment to see our doctor. Never in the 40 years that I had known Mac had he willingly made an appointment with a doctor—not even when he had his hernia and was in horrid pain. So off to the doctor we went. We stopped for lunch on the way home and by the time we walked in the door the phone was ringing with the news: Mac was seriously ill and we needed to get to the big hospital in the valley ASAP. We packed our bags and went—with Mac driving because he insisted he wasn’t that sick.

It was after 8pm before they got Mac checked into his room—in the ICU wing. The news wasn’t good and I wanted to stay, but Mac insisted it was late and I should go have dinner and get checked into my motel room, and then call him so that he would know I was okay. He told me that he would sleep better knowing I was safely tucked in for the night and that he would see me the next day. I left with a heavy heart wondering if my husband would live to see the next day. Well, he did; but that began an adventure the likes of which neither of us ever expected in our lives.

Once home, our health plan sent a home nurse, and she would have come daily, but Mac didn’t want a stranger taking care of him. Out of necessity, I set my own life aside and became the chauffeur, shopper, cook, laundry lady, garbage-taker-outer, fixer of simple things (Mac gave me lessons!), nurse, caregiver, pill dispenser, appointment juggler, encourager, and more, but first and foremost I was always Mac’s WIFE. Always. Being a WIFE isn’t always glamorous, or romantic, or pleasant—sometimes it’s just plain work, hard work. 

It wasn’t easy to help Mac shower, help him handle daily personal hygiene, help him put on his clothes, trim his toe nails, help him stand and sit and walk, help him cut his food and, sometimes even help him get the food to his mouth. It wasn’t easy to watch my beloved slowly slide downhill as he rapidly lost weight, muscle tone, and the desire to live. The whole process of being a caregiver took its toll on me emotionally and physically. So why did I do this? Why didn’t I insist that we get someone in to help?

Our wedding vows on October 12, 1974: “ … to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

When Mac and I got married, we both repeated those vows and we meant every one of those words, including the “in sickness and in health”. Mac and I were always a team. We supported each other, encouraged each other, defended each other before other people (even when privately we didn’t agree), we loved each other, and took care of each other. It was always a joke between us that Mac would fall to pieces when I was sick. He never made me chicken soup, he made me fried chicken (“You need solid food in your stomach”). He didn’t fix me a cup of tea because he didn’t know how strong to make it and didn’t want to disappoint me, so instead he hid in the other room until I fell asleep. BUT, when I needed medications, ice packs, back rubs, lotion slathered all over to stop the itching, support while walking, rides to the doctor, visits while in the hospital, etc, Mac was there—and I always knew that Mac would be there to take care of me. So how could I do any less? I couldn’t. That’s part of what being a wife is all about: taking care of your beloved husband.

Thus I became my husband’s caregiver as well as his WIFE. Neither diminished me in Mac’s eyes, instead he told me daily how very much he loved me, how much he appreciated all that I was doing for him, how he cherished me as his WIFE, and how thankful he was that I was willing to also be his caregiver.

Through all of this God blessed us. In 1978 Mac and I both came to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, and from that point on God was always the Leader to our team. Mac always called us the ‘team kiMac’. Together we placed our lives in God’s hands and faced this adventure. I also firmly believe that God allowed all of this so that I would be better prepared to face life as a widow. 

God gave me the strength I needed to keep going, the ability to smile when I was hurting, kept me alert as I drove, and God filled my heart with a peace that can only come from knowing that Mac’s life and mine were in His hands. God blessed Mac with 11 months when the doctor said probably only six months.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”—Genesis 2:18


Is this path for everyone? No. Each team has to search their own hearts. I only know that while ‘team kiMac’ is no more (except in my heart) I’m now at peace knowing that I gave comfort, strength and encouragement to my beloved husband during his last adventure. 

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