“So we do not lose heart…”
August 25, 2014 | My Jottings
Michael has been in the veterans home for fifty-three days now and I’m wondering when and if this is ever going to feel less heartwrenching. I realize that this is not all about me, and that he is the one who has had to make the bigger adjustment and be away from his home, and he probably feels more pain and grief than I do. But there are days when I feel utterly bereft. Just typing that last sentence has brought tears.
I’m very grateful for things that distract me from focusing constantly on us being apart. On Saturday I hosted a baby shower for our daughter Carolyn and about twenty-six people attended. I worked on things slowly and over the course of three days — I premade as much of the food as possible, cleaned the house a bit, washed rugs, set up chairs, and on the day of the shower I actually made my bed and put all its decorative pillows in their places (which almost requires a detailed schematic).
Doing the shower was a blessing. So many beautiful women attended; friends of Carolyn’s, friends of mine, all gathering together in such generosity to help her prepare for this new little girl we’re so excited to meet in October. Two of the recipes I liked the most are from Shauna Niequist’s book called Bread and Wine, which I highly recommend. Her bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans were sublime. I also made her watermelon and feta salad. I marinated chunks of watermelon in fresh-squeezed lime juice for a few hours, and made a vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, and tossed it all together with arugula, crumbled feta, chopped mint, red onion and lime zest. It was so unique and delicious!
And Carolyn and Jeremy’s baby will be the most adorably dressed little girl east of the Rockies, I predict.
I was bone tired when I went to bed the night of the shower, and left some of the bigger dishes like the punch bowl and serving platters unwashed until last night. I laid my head on my pillow and thought of Michael, how much he would have ooohed and aaahed over the good food, how he would have been one of the few men to enjoy seeing all the baby finery, and how much I miss him. All. The. Time. Is this our life, Lord? Is this how things are going to go? I find myself asking senseless questions like this, still in what feels like a stunned state of limbo. But this is not limbo. It is life. And we have got to learn to live it in the peace and grace promised to those who trust the Lord.
But then I ask myself, is this really trusting the Lord? And as ridiculous as this answer sounds, it’s honest: I’m not sure yet.
I met a wonderful woman of God named Nancy whose husband spent three years in this same veterans home, and he finally died there this year, from Parkinson’s Disease with Dementia. Nancy radiates God’s joy and peace, and she speaks to me of how she believes this place was a gift from the Lord to both Marshal and to her. She was so blessed that the Lord wanted her to have a life too, as she puts it, and that He provided this fantastic facility where the men are honored and served so respectfully. She drove up twice a week for years to spend time with her husband, and when he finally didn’t know her anymore she made the hour long drive only once a week. She said it was hard, but that she was so grateful God provided this placement so she could sleep at night, not completely wear herself out trying to care for a husband with overwhelming physical and mental needs, spend time with her grandchildren, go to a concert once in a while, and so on. She told me that they do so much more for the men at this veterans home than she could have ever done for her husband.
When Nancy shared this so lovingly and graciously with me, it made perfect sense and I felt in awe at God’s goodness to her and Marshal. I am in the same situation. Yet I struggle to see it the same way she does. Nancy calls to check on me and I sometimes sob when we talk — she understands. She gently tries to get me to see how necessary this is and what a lavish provision it is. And with my head I do see it that way. My heart is still aching, though. Maybe my heart is blind.
Nancy sends me notes in the mail filled with wisdom and scripture. I read them again and again and try to soak in what it is she feels the Lord laid on her heart. I pray that peace and assurance about all of this eventually comes, especially for Michael.
Yesterday morning I drove north to spend the day with Michael and I took along a couple of treats from the baby shower. He and I made our usual rounds, going to sit in front of the aviary to marvel at the birds who sing and trill so confidently. We wheeled outside to sit in the gazebo, and he agreed with me that one of the most lovely, soothing things ever is the sound of a soft wind blowing through a thousand birch trees. We went back inside and I helped him eat his delicious lunch, a very Michael meal consisting of a hearty, boneless pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh mixed vegetables, a buttered whole wheat roll, and some soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over it. Then he and I scrunched together in his twin bed and napped for a while, or at least he did. I took him to the Physical Therapy gym where he did twenty minutes on the recumbent bike. At 3:00 he and I went to the Sunday chapel service in The Great Room; we sang several old hymns and listened to a man from the local Vineyard congregation share.
I always get ready to return home around 4:00 p.m. I hate having to tell Michael because he seems surprised and crestfallen each time. He asked me yesterday when I could move in to the veterans home with him, and seemed a bit taken aback when I told him we still had a house and Foster residents I needed to care for, and that I couldn’t move in right away. 🙁 Before I leave I help him get out of his wheelchair and into a recliner, which sometimes takes two people so an aide will assist us, cover him with a quilt, reassure him that I’ll return to him soon, and then I get very close and whisper the most fervent prayers to the Lord in his ear.
Michael closes his eyes with me and I thank the Lord that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), and ask for His help so that we don’t lose heart, and to keep our hearts and minds set on Him even though our bodies are wasting away, remembering that we’re being renewed inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and then I thank God over and over for such a husband as Michael, and ask Him to send ministering angels to help him, send the Holy Spirit to comfort Him, and to bless Him with joy and the peace that passes all understanding. Even though it’s almost impossible to understand Michael’s speech anymore, I can hear his quiet yes, Lord and his amens as I pray.
And then I kiss and hug him goodbye, walk through the locked doors of his residence, down the halls of this veterans home, through the impressive front room with the fireplace and the giant moose head hanging over the mantel, out into the parking lot, and to our car.
Before I fasten my seatbelt and start the engine, I reach for a Kleenex.