It is amazing that you live your life as though there will be no ending. One day dissolves into the next as you allow this thing called life to direct your future while orchestrating the cataclysmic decisions you have made that cannot be easily forgotten. Very few of us strategically plan and manipulate the schematics for our lives. We get so caught up in just life that the challenges of life seem to overcome anything we would dare plan to do.
Rob and Melissa, my son and daughter-in-love, have been very involved in understanding their personalities, not just for their life work of pastoring people, but also to just understand each other and their sons. Of course, I have taken several personality tests myself through the years and even given personality tests for new members of our church, so I am interested in the thorough understanding of me so I can better serve those who look to me for guidance. They introduced me to the enneagram personality test.
This test is described online as a tool for transformation to help you overcome your fears, grow in your faith and find your purpose. Why in the world wouldn’t everyone want to take this test when you are promised to find your purpose? You see, I watch people continually, as I have been in the people business with my husband for fifty-two years, so, I enjoy matching their personality types before I even give them a test. Through my lifetime, I have tested totally different in certain seasons. When I was much younger, I tested Melancholy in the Temperaments Test which made me depressed because the Melancholic is described as brooding, contemplative, sensitive and spending much time alone focused on dreams, ideas and values.
However, Henry, my hubby, was described as a Choleric Type who was extroverted, thinking, judging, leading the pack. Oh yes, I was described as the introvert. I did not want to be the introvert. I wanted to light up the room when I walked in just like my husband or my daughter. I was the wall flower who was there but wasn’t. I had something to say but no one was listening. How could they hear me when my hubby, the leader, extrovert, was speaking?
Then, years later, I repeated the Temperaments Test and realized I was no longer brooding, contemplative, alone. I tested as a Choleric Type. What happened? It was just life. You see, I am a prime example that challenges throughout our lives cause us to adapt to changing situations. To adapt means we must become whatever is needed to keep our families on track through each life hurtle. Still, how in the world did I become an extrovert who leads the pack? I’m sure it’s because I was thrust into the position of leader as my husband began the developmental stages on Dementia Avenue. You know, there is a difference between a leader and a manager. A leader advances the team or family as a manager keeps the groups together. Groups or families fall apart without a leader. Have you heard families say that there are no more family dinners or gatherings because the leader passed on? I recognize today why I took my position as leader when my husband was diagnosed with dementia.
It was not conscious or carefully planned. I just began stepping into each day with the assurance that things would work out alright even though the strong man of the family was quietly withdrawing into himself.
We all knew he would fight to stay on his feet as our family head until he just could not. It was as though he was fading into the shadows. It happened very slowly yet progressively. Everyone began to take their place during this battle as a regiment would do as they set out for battle. After hospice began coming regularly to assist in bathing Henry and getting him ready for the day, our son, Rob, began coming three mornings weekly to help with his dad when hospice was not available. As helpful as this was, I was still needing assistance throughout the day to just get him up and changed. That’s where our eldest grandson, Morgan, was on call. Not once in the last year did I ever hear this twenty-five year old complain as he assisted in the changing process. Then in the evening, Kimberly, our daughter would pop in to assist in getting her dad ready for bed. Really, throughout the ten months that Henry was housebound, it was a family affair.
I said previously how Henry loved to primp and keep himself closely shaved while trimming nose and ear hairs. He was the most particular human being I have ever met. So, as the dementia progressed and Henry moved into the seventh stage, he became fearful of the shower. For two weeks before hospice came in, he absolutely would not step inside the shower. I was a bundle of nerves because I knew how clean this man had been and how he loved standing in the shower until I would scream for him to save me some hot water. Now, who in the world was I living with? He began growing a beard even though he loved to be clean shaven. I was getting more frustrated by the day. I realized he was afraid of the noise of the shaver, and yet we could not use a razor on him either.
If it had been only the shower and beard, I could still have functioned; however, he also was staying awake all night. There were several nights in succession when he did not even lay his head down on a pillow. He walked through the house all night long and could not be still. Because he was up and moving, so was I. I wasn’t afraid that he would escape because we had installed locks on our doors leading to the outside which he could not unlock. Even that amazed me as it was such a simple little action to slide the lock and open the door. Everything became insurmountable to this mighty giant who now was a fallen soldier. Because of his limitations, he became even more frustrated by his limitations. Did he have any idea the magnitude of the disease? I don’t believe he did. I know there were times I would look into his eyes and see such a sea of insecurity that it would make me weep. He just could not figure out life any longer. He was no longer the controlling factor in every decision that was made.
Honestly, I realize that there is no way we could have survived as we were living. We both needed help and needed it quickly. When the Southern Grace Hospice representative came to my door, I could have thrown my arms around her and hung on for dear life. She sat with us for about an hour and then asked the question, “How long has Mr. Jones been like this?” When I informed her that he was diagnosed five years ago and been progressively getting worse, she asked me how in the world I had done this alone. I began weeping because I finally realized that someone would give us the assistance needed. I knew that I wasn’t physically able to continue caring for my husband without medical assistance. I knew he needed medications to help get him balanced so our lives could become as normal as possible in our situation. The very next day, a nurse came to assess my husband’s condition. She then ordered the much-needed meds that I had been begging the neurologist to prescribe. I felt that our neurologist totally failed us in this awful journey. However, it’s over now and I will not hold any unforgiveness for this act. By midnight on the second night, my doorbell was ringing, and the pharmacy was delivering our first meds.
When my friends heard me raving about meds deliveries, they wondered who I had become. I have always been a student of health and will do anything to avoid taking medications. And yet, here I was praying that we could get something that would make our lives bearable. Even today, I am so very thankful that I was able to meet some of the finest in the healthcare industry. Our nurse, Nancy Rusk, and CNA, Tamika Clemons, were truly angels with skin on. They became family and loved & honored my sweet honey as he was. They were familiar with meeting a new family with a new patient who they called terminal. Yet, when we all came together, they brought such joy to our home. They treated my husband with such respect and grace that he fully trusted them as they cared for him.
I had said caring for Henry was a family affair. After hospice came in and got Henry stabilized with his meds, we finally were able to get a system in place for Henry’s haircuts. You see, you really don’t understand unless you are dealing with a housebound patient that they can no longer sit in a barber’s chair or even wait in a doctor’s office. That is the main reason we called in hospice. I informed Henry’s doctor that we could not sit in his office for two hours waiting for his appointment any longer, especially when we had arrived fifteen minutes early. Finally, when Henry’s hair, which was always gorgeous, became too bushy, our daughter-in-love, Melissa, brought her little black apron and her clippers. We would sit Henry in a kitchen chair and keep him entertained with fig newtons while she happily served her dad-in-love. His beard had gotten out of control, so we were never able to trim the goatee and hair under his nose. He no longer was clean shaven, but he sure did look handsome with the short beard. In fact, two days before he passed away, he was already bedfast. Melissa was able to trim his hair and Rob trimmed his beard. I will never be able to explain to my family how much I appreciate the love, honor and respect they gave their dad.
I am so thankful for each day that I was given the honor of serving my hubby of fifty-two years. I really cannot explain the grieving process. I am keeping myself so busy writing my book, traveling, and blogging that I tire myself out through the day, so I sleep well most nights. Of course, it is 2 AM on a Tuesday morning. I retired at 10:55 PM. About 12:30 AM, I realized I would lay for a while without falling asleep, so I decided I would write a blog. Yes, I have plenty of work to do today, so I will not sleep in. Alexa will awaken me at 6:45 AM. I will open my eyes and determine it will be a good day all day long. Then up I will go to get my day started. Why? Because I can. Because I am healthy and whole and love living life. Do I miss my hubby? You know I do. How could I not miss him when we were together almost every day for so many years? The only times we were apart was normally when he was traveling in ministry. Yet, I know he served his purpose and the eternal God was ready for him. We all have our number of days that we will live. We have no idea how long that will be. So, I live in such a way that I will be ready when my time comes to cross over to that eternal home where Henry awaits.