Several thoughts coalesced this morning to a realization. I wrote last week about caregiver resentment, and I may go back and add this in at some point.
We can get resentful or “weary in well doing” in just about any endeavor. But I think in most of them, you have every expectation of seeing improvement or completion. If you’re building something or involved in a big project, you know at some point it will be done. Some of the frustrations are easier to bear because you can see progress and look forward to the end results. With the frustrations and limitations of raising children, you also continually see them learn and grow and gradually get more independent and able to do some things on their own. Plus they’re cute, and there are moments of fun and joy along the way.
But with an elderly loved one who is declining, it’s not going to get better. It will likely get worse. And the only way it all ends is when that person dies (or goes to a nursing home, which we feel would only hasten my mother-in-law’s death. She was so low when she was there that we felt we were bringing her home to die – and that was almost two years ago). So wishing to be relieved or for it all to be over seems akin to wishing for that person’s death, which adds guilt to the mix.We backtrack and think, “No, no, no, I didn’t mean that.” We just wish it could be different. But it’s not going to be.
Some caregivers battle depression more than resentment, or maybe both. Besides all that is involved in caring for an elderly person, there is the sadness of seeing them lose mental or physical abilities one by one.
There are times I wonder at God’s ways. Last year we lost our pastor to a short battle with cancer and a young mom of two children to a very sudden and unexpected reaction to a medication. He was in his early fifties, two daughters had just gotten married, he was known for uniquely caring for everyone whose life he touched. He would have been a wonderful grandfather. The young mom left behind a grieving husband, children, and friends. Why are people like that taken “early,” as it seems to us, when they still have so much vitality and usefulness ahead of them, and other people experience a slow decline for years, some vacant and unresponsive in nursing homes, others no longer recognizable due to the alterations of Alzheimer’s?
I don’t know. But I do trust that God has His reasons. He’s doing something in the lives of all the people connected with each individual.
All we can do is continually apply God’s truth to our situations, as I mentioned previously, and depend on His grace day by day.
Something else that helps me a bit sometimes is when I think of my mother-in-law’s situation as analogous to how God sees me: helpless, completely dependent, messy and unable to do anything about it. Yet He loves me. He doesn’t resent cleansing and caring for me. He knows how thoroughly I need Him even more than I do. Seeing my own helplessness and basking in His love and care for me helps love for others to well up in my own heart.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.