3 Things I’m Learning About Me by Caring for My Dad
13 years ago my dad called me while I was at work. He said, “Rayna, I’m worried. I think something is wrong with my memory.” My response was, “Oh dad, don’t worry about it. We don’t’ know what normal aging looks like. I’m sure you’re fine.”
He lost his parents before the age of 60 and my mom at the age of 65 after 12 years of Alzheimer’s. I went on to tell him to go ahead and see a doctor just to be assured that things are fine.
In some ways, it seems like that was a timeline ago and in other ways it feels like yesterday. As his disease has progressed so has his need for 24-hour care. 3 and half years ago I became one of those who provides that care so that he can stay in his home as he asked.
It would be a lot easier if I lived close by but it is 220 miles one way to stay with him and care for him. For the first couple of years, I made the drive weekly but thankfully I have been able to cut back to every other weekend now.
As I reflect on this experience of caring for my dad’s needs as he lives with this disease 3 things stood out that I have learned about me.
I am a control freak.
This is not a new revelation but until this experience I think I was doing better at trying not to try to control everything. Now I battle with feeling that I have to control everything to keep him safe.
I can see where being a control freak has served me well in some ways. Controlling many of the trivial things in dad’s environment makes life easier and safer for him. It is amazing how something as small as putting his baseball cap on can make him ready to go out the door, no matter what time of day or night it is. Knowing this means the cap is always stored out of site.
But my desire to control everything can also bring him and me unnecessary stress. For example, I would love for Dad to go to bed at the same time every night in order to help him get up easier in the morning but how do you tell your 84-year-old person it is bed time? I do it gently but many times that doesn’t matter. Dad has been an adult a long time and he wants to go to bed when he wants to not when I think he should.
There are too many other things for me to list that I would like to control and can’t in this situation. When I forget to bring all of them to God then I get STRESSED, sad and upset. Talking to the Lord about how hard the situation is brings comfort unlike anything else.
I know God is building my trust in Him through this so I just have to keep focused on Him and reminding myself God does truly control it all.
Farmer and I had been married for 5 years when he looked at me and said you need to take care of your dad, even if that means you need to move here and live with him. Seriously, it was his idea.
I am so thankful for how well he has loved me as I have spent 50% of the week away from him week in and week out for almost 3 years. No, he is not perfect just like I’m not, but his love and support has meant the world to me.
I am also deeply loved by my Lord. His grace to live this day in and day out has blessed me beyond words. His desire for me to love my daddy well has been whispered to me when dad is being difficult. His desire for me to share His light and love with the others who are caring for my dad too has been a mission He has laid on my heart. His love and forgiveness when I have not fulfilled this calling well has been there waiting for the asking.
Loving is easy when life is easy, it is much harder when things are difficult but living knowing you are Loved is the Best!
I am only human and this hurt.
It hurts to see your strong, smart, compassionate and loving daddy fade in and out. I wish that I could figure out a way to serve him without it hurting so much but I am only human and it is supposed to hurt.
As a teenager when I experienced losing my mom I closed off my heart for a while. The pain of what was happening just seemed too much. When I finally broke down and allowed the Lord to talk with me about it He said if you feel no pain then you feel no joy either. Rayna, I have both pain and joy for you. Open your heart, I will help you carry the pain and bask in the joy.
There are times I feel overwhelmed with the sorrow and pain of watching dad struggle in this confusion and frustration. That is when I realize I have been holding it in and not taking it to my heavenly Father for Him to carry it with me.
With all my heart, I wish God would just take it away but that’s what He has seen fit to do and most often that is not how this fallen world works. Jesus said in John 16:33“ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Yep, that’s where Take Heart Coaching got its name.)
So, there they are, 3 things that I am learning from taking care of my daddy during this time in our lives.
Have you taken time to reflect on the lessons you have learned from your Dad? This weekend might be an appropriate time to do that. Life is not easy and your relationship with your dad might be a tough one but with prayer and reflection I’m sure there are some things you have learned from him.
I would love to hear what you have realized you have learned from your dad. Comment below!
How does what you believe change your everyday life?
Do you believe in Santa Claus? Do you believe in happily ever after? Do you believe in God’s word?
How you answer each of these questions will change the way you live.
If you believe in Santa you will get better gifts, or so I hear. If you believe in happily ever after you might work harder to invest your marriage so it is happy. If you believe in God’s word you will know His character and how He feels about you and that will change everything.
Believe has two different definitions: one means to accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of something the second on is to hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose. Even how you believe something will change your life.
Believing something is truth versus an opinion are worlds apart.
Sometimes experiencing hard times can mess with your believing. Things have been difficult with Dad lately.
He is experiencing some new physical issues that have left him very tired and often even more confused. Sadly, with those feelings he is very agitated and can be unkind. My dad has always been a gentleman, kind and respectful. It is very difficult to see him like this, not to mention being the person he is unkind to.
My heart has been saddened and heavy. As I spilled my heart out to God about how hard this season with Dad is, He asked me, “Rayna, do you still believe I am good?”
This was a question I struggled with years ago when my first marriage came to an end. It was so hard to understand how I could be experiencing this when it was the last thing I wanted.
With this question came some exploring of God’s character. Was it about Him letting this happen or was it really, could God still be good if this is His will for my life?
Struggling with this core belief has changed how I live.
Being rooted in the truth that God is Good helps me to respond to hard times with hope and peace.
When our house burned down, God is Good.
When my dog dies, God is Good.
When I get an, “I love you, Graham.” from Owen, God is Good.
When the harvest is abundant, God is Good.
When the crops are destroyed by flood, God is Good.
When my Dad is struggling and not nice, God is still Good.
What are you believing about God that needs a closer look? How can you move your belief from opinion to truth?
If you are not sure where to start, I can help. Coaching might be just what you need to make that shift. Learn more about coaching here or contact me to talk about what coaching with me would look like for you!
“If you wish to know God, you must know his Word. If you wish to perceive His power, you must see how He works by his Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
The Loving Arms of God
I started my week with some sad news. One of my best friends from college, Tammy, lost her dad Sunday night. He passed away after suffering from the horrifying disease, Alzheimer’s.
I don’t think it had been 2 full years since Tammy called me in tears when he was diagnosed. She knew I could relate on a deeper level since I lost my mom years ago this disease and my dad was diagnosed almost 10 years ago now.
Hearing of Tammy’s loss broke my heart and hit me hard. It caused me think about my crazy life and to be thankful for my dad.
It is so hard for me to think of losing my dad. As I journey with him through his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s it’s on my mind a lot that the craziness of traveling 220 miles one-way week in and week out, being away from my husband and family 3 days at a time will not be forever. Things are not easy and I am often tired but I am also thankful to be able to help take care of my dad.
This week my heart was also overjoyed with the love of a very special kiddo.
Tuesdays are Owen days. Owen is my 23-month old grandson and he is a blast! We have spent Tuesday’s together since he was 6 weeks old. We very rarely miss our time together. But last week was he was out of town at his other grandma’s house and I missed my Owen day.
So when this Tuesday came around I just couldn’t wait to spend time with him, to just focus on him and do whatever he wanted to do. It is funny to me that one of his favorite things to do is to climb on top of a chair or the playschool slide (we have in our living room when he visits) and stand there, look around pretending like he’s not looking at me and then just fall into my arms.
This week he added the wonderful sound of his sweet voice saying, “Graham” (which is what he calls me.) as he fell! It just melts my heart to have him fall into my arms, calling out my name, laughing, looking for a hug, maybe even a kiss or two, followed by some tickles too.
Spending the day with my Owen was just what I needed!
After my day with Owen I was praying for Tammy and her family. Letting go is so hard to do. As I prayed for them the Lord brought the image of my Owen to mind.
Owen falling forward with all confidence into my arms lovingly calling out my name with a smile and a giggle and no doubts that I would be there to catch him.
What a beautiful picture of trust!
With that image came a challenge from the Lord, do you trust me, like he trusts you? Are you trusting me with your daddy and his health?
To be honest my answer is it depends on the day. Some days it is easier to trust than others. When dad has an off day or he struggles with a caregiver I want to step in and fight for him. Tell the doctors to change medications, or find new people to help with his care. And though these might be things I need to do, what God reminded me that day was that first of all I need to jump into His arms and let him love on me and then go do what it is asked of me.
I am trying to remember to do that each day. Turn to Him first in trust and then go take care of the things life requires.
I still dread the thought of my dad’s passing but I am trusting that when it is time to let go of my dad I will be able to just fall face first into my Heavenly Father arms and trust him to take me through the saying goodbye part of this journey too. I don’t look forward to it, I know it won’t be easy but I also know that my Heavenly daddy will always catch me and I will be ok.
I’m so thankful for the reminder God gave me of His love for me through my Owen! How does God show his love for you?
My entire life like most little girls I have always wanted to be a mommy. I never imagined I would be a mom of 2 precious children I never got to hold, cuddle, kiss or even have to discipline.
After my first marriage ended I was still hopeful I would remarry and have children. No I would not be the young mom I thought I would be but I never dreamed I would not be a mom someday.
Then it happened. Ron and I had been married over 2 years and I was finally pregnant. If you have struggled with infertility you know what the monthly rollercoaster ride is like. I didn’t even bother to take a test until I as a few weeks late. We were so excited! I was so sick.
It was an answered to many hours of prayers for sure.
Then it happened. Just the Friday before our fist doctor’s appointment, I started spotting. It wasn’t much so I was totally unprepared for the news that Monday.
As the nurse did the ultrasound she told us there were twins. But the look on her face was not one of joy, rather concern. Our first baby, Isaac, looked to have stop developing at a little less than 8 weeks. The second baby, Lillian, was much bigger, at least 10 weeks old but there was no movement. The doctor came in to confirm neither of them had made it.
I was in shock. My heart was shattered! How could this be happening? They were the answer to my prayers!
After losing the twins life went on and I did my best to trust God in this and wait for my chance to be a mom. The longer time went by and we still were not pregnant the more my heart crumbled. I had been through tough stuff before and always found God Good but this time I struggled.
How could God give me two babies and never let me hold them, play with them, or even celebrate their life? It felt cruel not good! I really struggled getting past it.
Thankfully I had a good friend who lead me to the lap of God and encouraged me to ask Him to understand. Our father always wants to talk to us and bring healing, we often just don’t know how to ask for it.
That day my Lord helped me to see His eternal perspective. He had answered my prayer. I am a mom. In my mind’s eye and in my heart He showed me my two beautiful children. They were on his lap laughing and happy. He reminded me that just because they did not grow up here on earth did not mean they didn’t exist; they just went on ahead.
They are waiting for me in heaven and we will spend eternity together.
That day I started to call them by name, Isaac & Lillian and I embraced motherhood. Mother’s Day has always been a difficult holiday for me. Between losing my mom to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis at 16 and the struggle of infertility and now miscarriage I would rather just sleep all day to be honest.
But now I have the vision of my mom, Isaac and Lillian all together in Heaven with my Lord and I praise my Great God for answered prayer.
Of course I would rather have had them live here with me first but I know that God is faithful, loving and good and I trust that eternity will be long enough!
Is there something that you have experienced that doesn’t make sense or goes against the character of God? Go to Him. Ask to understand, He will give you clarity around the situation if you ask with an open heart. People often stay stuck in the whys of hurts when clarity can help you move forward. Clarity gives us hope.