I am a wad of mixed emotions right now.
For the very first time in my life, I’m okay with the idea of putting my Father in a home. I never thought I’d get to this point. But then again, I never thought I would be this broken.
As a caregiver, you learn quickly that love costs. But when you’ve paid the piper till your pockets are empty, you’re faced with the reality that you’ve reached your limit. Your breaking point. You begin to realize that you can’t go on any longer. You’ve said that aloud a dozen times but this time the ends of the rope you’re holding onto are frayed and the sand clock has run out. You’re empty. And broken.
You still have grace. As a child of God, you’ve always had grace. But you realize your season as a caregiver is over and the grace you now have is for passing on the baton to someone else.
I’m out of strength. I take Dad by the hands and walk backward as I lead him down the hall to the restroom, the living room or the kitchen. He droops now. I try to coax him to straighten up by calling out “Airman Vineyard” from his Air Force days. Sometimes it works. But there are days he sloops so low that I feel like I’m dancing with a 165-lb. orangutan. When he needs to use the restroom, I help him sit down; I help him stand up. But sometimes I tell him to stand and he just sits there with a question mark on his face. I am all of 5’ 2”. I cannot physically pick up my Father.
I also can’t keep him from falling. Last Monday at 2:45 am, the bed alarm sounded and I heard a crash. I hurried upstairs to find my Father sitting on the edge of the bed with blood matting his hair. He had hit his head on the corner of the nightstand and thankfully, the wound wasn’t serious. So we did what all caregivers do ~ we change things up. We moved the nightstand away from the bed and covered it with pillows. And we installed bedrails. Now when the bed alarm goes off, I find him sitting in bed with his feet poking through the bedrails, like he’s still a young boy on his father’s farm and he’s stuck in the fence.
I started looking for a facility. A place that was friendly and compassionate. A place that didn’t smell like urine or serve as a revolving door for employees. A place that engages residents with meaningful activities and is close by so we can visit.
And I may have found it.
I’ve submitted an application to the Fountainview Center in Atlanta, a place that’s exclusively for people with Alzheimer’s. Given the current COVID crisis, residents are allowed no visitors unless it’s an end-of-life visit. And hearing that felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. How can I go from seeing my Father every day for 9 ½ years to not seeing him at all until he’s on his deathbed? I would be saying goodbye to him forever. Just the idea of it made my heart hurt.
And this is where my Father asks me to trust Him. My Heavenly Father. Do I believe God loves my Dad more than I do? Do I believe that He will supply all of my Father’s needs? Do I trust God enough to let my Father go?
I have a choice. I always have a choice. Either God is who He says He is, or the Christian faith is useless. Either God can be trusted in the trenches or not at all.
I know this is a test. I’m sitting at a student’s desk with a sharpened pencil and paper before me. My heartstrings have been pulled taut and I must choose correctly. I’ve studied for this test. I’ve read the Bible verses that reveal God’s promises to me. I know to be still and know that He is God. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me. I know He will supply all my needs according to His riches in heaven. But sometimes what I’m feeling overshadows what I know deep in my soul to be true.
This isn’t my first test. I’ve taken many as a caregiver and I’ve learned that my job was never to make something happen. It was only my job to believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. And God nailed the test. Every. Single. Time.
It was God who opened the doors of Grace Arbor with compassionate volunteers and staff to love on and engage my Father spiritually, physically and emotionally for ten years. It was God who provided financially so I could take 6 unpaid weeks off work to care for both parents while my Mother recovered from back surgery. It was God who brought Dad hospice in the form of supplies, medications, nurses, aides, volunteers and a chaplain over the last 17 months. It was God who provided friends to watch my Father last summer while Mom and I simultaneously recovered in our sick beds. It was God who opened the doors of Peachtree Christian Health and provided tuition, giving us respite and alleviating COVID-induced depression from my Father. And it was God who provided for me financially the last 12 months without a job while I took care of my parents.
I have to let my Father go.
I’m not releasing him into the great unknown. I’m giving him back to God, to his Father to care for him in a way I no longer can. And if I can do that, I’ll pass the test. I’ll put down my pencil and watch God do things only He can do. And I’ll finally be able to rest. And start my life back again.