It was a typical Friday morning for Henry and me as we were on our way to the church office. Since Mom and Dad had moved in with us nine years before, we could always check on them as we left our house. We had purchased a house with a mini apartment on one end, and we all shared the kitchen and utility area for washing and drying clothes. Our two teenagers had their rooms upstairs with a Jack and Jill bathroom, so we definitely were a three-generational family.
My parents had lived in North Carolina their entire lives; however, as they aged, they knew that Henry and I would be there to support them in their life challenges. I had spent many weeks with my parents sitting by my dad’s bed in a hospital as he recuperated from strokes, heart by-pass, and heart pacemaker (which was inserted incorrectly). That’s just Dad’s challenges. Mom also had her own demons that she contended with since my younger brother passed away at two years of age. She had a regime of visiting at least three doctors simultaneously – personal physician, cardiologist, mental health physician for her nerves and mental health clinic for assist her in just living life with all these challenges.
So, that Friday morning, as we looked in on my parents, we were not surprised when we saw Dad sitting on a short stool in the bedroom with Mom sitting on the floor as he was trying to feed her breakfast. He could not give her the morning medicine if she did not eat, yet she was too sleepy to eat. We immediately took Mom to the hospital and she was diagnosed with drug overdose. We were not surprised. Dad was very independent and knew he could take care of him and Mom. So, he would give her the meds from the bottles, then later, Mom would take more because she did not remember that she had taken anything.
On Saturday, upon arriving at the hospital, I saw Dad waiting in the hall to go into Mom’s room. I could tell that he was extremely sick, so I sent him home, and I waited for Mom to be released.
On Sunday morning, Dad informed us that he was not able to go to with us as we left for church. After church, we were eating at the local restaurant when Dad called Henry and let him know that he wanted Henry to take him to the ER. What is so amazing is that, four months earlier, I was with Dad at the hospital for one week as they tested and tested while trying to figure out why he was bleeding through his colostomy bag. No explanations after that week, so we just started living life as usual. Now, four months later, he wasn’t bleeding but was experiencing pain in his stomach area unlike anything he had experienced previously. Thank God that the surgeon on call for the ER that afternoon immediately diagnosed Dad with an ulcer. The surgeon immediately took Dad into surgery, and when he came out of surgery, he was on life support. Twenty-one days later, Dad had passed.
It seems as though I am just reporting on a life issue that changed our tomorrows; however, what I’m doing is letting you know that it changed everything in our lives. When the doctors told me that my dad would not live, my future immediately passed before me. Mom was at home in a wheelchair, unable to walk unassisted, unable to prepare her food or even dress herself. Dad had been her most capable caregiver and did it with such love and care.
Now, I would be her caregiver and could not figure how in the world I would fit everything in this life of mine. Did I tell you that we had resigned as pastors of our church six weeks before Dad passed? Did I tell you that we already had a travel schedule with plane tickets purchased to be in Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore within two weeks? We had a ministry schedule already in motion where we were to speak throughout these countries for six weeks. I had no one to call to put our lives back together.
I locked myself in a hospital restroom as I was having a total meltdown and questioning God in the midst of this life crisis. God, how could you take my dad when we all needed him so much? How in the world will Mom survive without him? We were all dependent on him.
Four days before Dad passed, I left the hospital alone and drove over to the cemetery. Because Dad was so independent, we knew nothing about his bank account or funeral arrangements after death. We did know that he had purchased burial plots when they had moved to Atlanta; however, had no idea if there were any arrangements made. I walked into the cemetery office and let them know I was checking up on my dad and mom’s plans. I wanted to make sure everything was in order. I didn’t tell them my dad was dying. They immediately let me know that everything was taken care of. The headstones, vaults and open and closing of the burial site.
I then went to the hospital counselor’s office and poured out my frustrations. My mom was unable to take care of herself, and I knew that her upkeep would be our responsibility. When I stated that I did not know how to do this, the counselor leaned across the desk and said, “You must get over this and figure out how you will do this tomorrow.” I then fell on my experience of seeking Jesus’ presence and asked for His wisdom in my next steps. My next move was a call to a nurse friend from church who immediately sat with my mom and me and assisted me in learning to be the caregiver needed at this time – giving insulin shots, checking blood sugar and getting her on her daily schedule of medicines.
This entire story sounds like one endless tragedy after another, and yet it is just life. I can tell you that, after getting Mom stabilized with her meds and putting her on a healthy diet, she lived another ten years. We never could have dreamed that Mom would do so well that we even flew her back and forth to see my sister in Pensacola, FL. The irony of this story is that, two weeks after my dad’s funeral, Henry and I went back to the funeral home and paid for Mom’s funeral because we assumed that she would be gone quickly because she had been so dependent on Dad. If you had told us that we would have had Mom with us for ten more years, we could never have believed it. Understand that God has a plan, and that plan is to do you good and not harm. If He could bring my mom back to life and give her strength to face each day without the man whom she had lived with for fifty-four years, He can also take any challenge we face and turn it into His good. We are living proof!