Most of us have served the caregiver role at one time or another even if it was just short term during an illness or after a surgery. But for many, this becomes a new normal, when a devastating life changer or aging progression happens.
It is a lonely hard road, but most of the caregivers that I know have done so with grace and a sweet spirit. We must let them know that we come along beside them for emotional, spiritual support and to offer tangible help.
One of the best examples I know of a caregiver is my friend Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress. She has had to fill this rollover and over again. She was the caretaker for her physically challenged daughter, Shela, until her death as a teenager. Still reeling from that loss, two years later she journeyed through cancer with her first husband, Tom, until his death.
God brought Lettie and her second husband Phil together and gave them nine years of bliss before he suffered a manageable stroke and then a more devastating one. It was within those nine good years that I met Lettie and got to be friends with her. I was amazed at the strength with which she had lived through her earlier trials. I was saddened that she was being thrust heart first into the caregiver role again. Even though Lettie and I live nearly three hundred miles apart, I watched her latest noble service play out for years through the Facebook page, “Pray-ers for Phil,” started after her beloved second husband’s stroke.
When the website was first started, she stated that the way she got through was a “desperate holding on to God.” Lettie stayed humble, many time vulnerable as she communicated prayer request dealing with his care. I noticed that she was always grateful for each act of kindness or service that was provided for her and Phil, especially for those who walked alongside them in prayer. Phil passed away this past April and Lettie is now walking through the grieving process and being restored to a new normal, and I know that God will reward her faithful service to her family.
I tell Lettie’s story to tell you that caregivers walk a difficult, lonely path but the journey is much worse if they feel they are alone. We must find practical ways to help, but we also need to offer words of encouragement and much prayer. As they stand by their loved one, we must stand by them. We must let them know that they are not forgotten by us nor by God.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10) (NIV)