My mother had surgery last week. She lives in another state, but it’s less than a two hour drive away so I packed up a suitcase and drove up to spend several days caring for her after she was released from the hospital. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.
Helping her out of bed in the morning and to the reclining chair is a monumental task. Getting her out of the chair for any reason is as well. I’ve learned how to bend down, tip the chair forward, get the brunt of her weight under my arm, shift her weight onto my thighs while still keeping the chair tilted and use my hands to steady her, all the while holding her JP drain, catheter bag and tubing out of the way.
Caring for her has included wound care and dressings, emptying blood and fluids from the JP drain, emptying the catheter bag, dressing and undressing for the day, assistance showering, making sure she gets all of her medications (and there are a lot!) on schedule, cooking and cleaning for her, as well as feeding and walking the dogs etc… Most of this isn’t particularly difficult, but it is time consuming. Most of the difficulty lies, not in the tasks, but in my mother having to lay aside her pride and be very vulnerable and dependent. I know it’s humiliating to her to have to have her daughter help her with such personal and intimate parts of her life.
Honestly, prior to this week, the thought of having to help my mother shower or assist her with a bowel movement was horrifying to me. It is one thing to assist a patient, an acquaintance, or even a friend with these things, but having to help a parent brings a different level of emotional involvement. Our parents are the ones who cared for us when we were younger and to see them become vulnerable is a reminder that they are aging, that they aren’t invincible, and that life is fleeting.
But you know, sometimes such a reminder isn’t so bad. We need to be reminded that we are human and that our lives are short. We need to remind ourselves that our experiences here on earth are temporary and what matters is eternity. Additionally, caring for an ill or aging person is an opportunity to practice the love of God.
I’ve learned that I have much more to give than I realized. My mother and I have never been particularly close and I’ve often felt I am a failure in her eyes, but none of that mattered when she needed me. I’ve learned that when you love someone you don’t think about how awful it is to have to bathe them, you just do it. And you do it because you love them. I think of all the things she did for me when I was young, not because she wanted to, but because it was the right thing for me at the time. And I think of all the things the Lord has done for me. Not because He had to, but because He loved me.
Every blessing we receive is because our heavenly Father loves us. He was willing to do the dirty work in order to rescue us in our time of need. He came down to this degraded, unholy place as a helpless child because He loved us enough to overlook the sacrifice it would take. He didn’t just sacrifice His time and resources, He sacrificed His very life. He looked down and saw that we were sick and injured and put in motion a plan to bring us back to health. He saw that we were lost and dying and He picked us up and gave us life! He is the ultimate caregiver. He is the One I want to emulate and the One I want to praise all of the days of my short life on this earth and for all of eternity.
In His love,