“We’re going to get through this.” WE. He was in it with me. Like a truly amazing friend who isn’t afraid of what is to come, or maybe they are, but they aren’t going anywhere. His words and hope and encouragement kept me going. When it all began it was just a little rough in the mornings, but within weeks I was clinging to him in bed begging him not to leave. Eventually he would be released to go to work, only to be summoned back to a panicked wife. Fortunately John worked close by and for himself, otherwise I don’t know how we would have made it. Nonetheless he needed to work and his long hours away weren’t sustainable.
One moment comes to mind. We went to the grocery store to gather things for Thanksgiving. Usually we would split the list and each get items needed. But I literally could not be more than a few feet from him. He recalls looking at me and seeing this look of a deer in the headlights. I know he felt helpless. His once vibrant, independent, bubbly wife was now fragile and behind her eyes he saw pure fear. But it did not stop him from turning over every stone. The vows we had taken 28 years earlier…in sickness and in health, for better or for worse…were being tested. His faithfulness wasn’t always easy but he also never considered anything else. This was what the Lord had for him. What he knew he had for us. He kept thinking, “there is so much suffering here, God has to be doing something and will bring good from this.” He would remind me of this regularly. It drew him close to the Lord. Constantly calling on him for help. It also brought John and I closer. In an odd way it was a tenderly intimate time for us.
Up until this time John would admit he had very little compassion for those who suffered with emotional issues. He felt people brought their circumstances on themselves, using prescription drugs to “fix” their problem. There may be some truth to the fact that meds are overused and can cover up the real issues needed to be dealt with, but this certainly isn’t the assumption he would make now. Generally kind hearted, he also believed one could “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. Living through this with me changed him forever. It humbled him and showed him firsthand the difficulty and complexity of each person’s situation.
Mercifully, God brought some really good friends into John’s life as well. I am so grateful that he also had support. Being a caregiver is a tough job, ask anyone who has been in that position. Caregivers don’t get time off. They feel the pain almost as severely as the person they are caring for. Almost. It can be lonely. It can be frustrating. And as I mentioned, it can feel very hopeless and helpless. So having friends that came beside him was a gift. One friend began meeting with him every week. A friendship that continues to this day. Every so often there would be that guy that would ask, “How do you keep going?”. That can be a sincere and legitimate question but sometimes it actually sounded more like, “WHY do you keep going?” As if to say, I could understand if you wanted to give up. And often people do. They can check out. If not physically, certainly emotionally. Even in the midst of my own pain, I was so thankful for John and told him regularly. Spending time alone with John, addressing his needs and just staying close was something that I knew was important for our relationship. Every night we would go to bed together and he would read me a chapter from the book of Psalms. It was a sweet little spot in a very dark world.
He spent hours and hours researching and talking to people. So many wanted to help. One friend recommended an acupuncturist. He only had one meeting available in the near future, an early morning one. Mornings already were not good for me, and this place was an hour drive in a sketchy part of town. Only because he came highly recommended, and we were so desperate, we walked in and filled out the paperwork. As I lay there having dozens of needles gently inserted into my flesh I prayed that this might help in some way. It was an interesting experience, but did nothing for me. John was not thwarted. I would text him and say things like, “we need to do something, I can’t go on like this.” Such utter despair flowing through me. I can only imagine what a heavy burden he carried. He would leave in the morning and some days wonder if he’d come back home to his wife or not. It still pains me to imagine what this was like.
I’d like to say there were some good days along the way. But the fog never lifted. Maybe there was a moment when things cleared just a bit, but mostly it was the same feeling of panic day in and day out. Others looked to John and were amazed that he could hold on to hope which gave them the endurance to continue too. He was truly a gift to us all.