by Annette Meyer
I lie here in the darkness listening to the low rumble of the ceiling fan swirling the bedroom air, the bedside clock methodically ticks the nighttime minutes away. My father’s rhythmic breathing tells me that he is resting easy. In quiet times like these I often wonder if and what he is dreaming.
Relaxed, my head on my pillow, I try futilely to open an emotional channel to the sweet peace that I felt just a short while ago. I’ve made it a nightly habit to slip outside into the fresh air for brief moments of prayer; a soul respite from my constant caregiving duties. How I yearn most every night to sit quietly in the swing for those long hours of solitude perfectly designed for soaking in the evening’s sounds that always embrace me like a comforting blanket. Sadly, the refreshing memories of time spent in my favorite reflection spot won’t awaken to life and fill my bedtime thoughts; no flicker of inspiration comes. I soon begin to fade, dropping away into a comfortable sleep, perchance to dream of sitting in the swing.
It’s just past midnight when I am awakened by a subtle movement in the darkness. Daddy grows restless and will soon ask for my helping hand. This routine of sleeping in broken sections is our normal. My ears are instinctively attuned to changes in his breathing patterns.
Each time I rise when called to stand beside his bed. Tonight he tells me of heart pains and I dispense a nitroglycerin. The chest pain soon dissipates and we can both settle back into the covers, hopefully without further interruptions till morning light.
The clock ticks steadily. Again he moans in his sleep while I lie here awake and think of bygone years when he was agile and younger and my go-to fountain of wisdom on many subjects. This man was always steady in troublous times, often praising in the storm, with a ready laugh and a helping hand stretched out to others.
I find these days that my own heart gets tempted to become resentful at his struggle. On the one hand I am grateful for the length of days that he has lived; 82 years of seeking, praying for guidance into truth and trying to live in the light as it has shone upon his pathway. All my life I have watched him trying to emulate His Messiah’s walk. He is my example on earth of what I want to be when I grow up; not perfect yet, but a willing ‘work in progress,’ constantly seeking, learning and growing toward perfection.
I stay firmly on guard against tempting thoughts that will try to recycle themselves through my mind. I don’t ever want to challenge my Creator’s choices by asking that age old question; Why do bad things happen to good people? Responding to that with feelings of disappointment and accusations of betrayal by my Heavenly Father would quickly give way to the adversary, allowing more negative emotions to flood in as a dark cancer in the soul.
I fully accept that there is a grander purpose than we know now as to WHY Daddy is living out this challenging Parkinson’s Disorder scenario at the end of his days. By no measurement is PD a cakewalk but I do not believe that this is any form of punishment. Our Father in heaven is kind and loving and all knowing. PD is merely a circumstance that is allowed to afflict him and by extension, those of us who love him.
The Bible is Daddy’s favorite book. Bible stories were used in our home to teach eager young children an object lesson. Daddy has often read and explained that Job was a righteous man, yet the adversary was allowed to try him for a time with oppressive losses of property, family and eventually his very health. Yet, despite overwhelming circumstances meant to break him down Job deliberately chose to become still and wait patiently for his time of deliverance! And for that depth of faith to endure while he certainly did not understand the WHY of it all, Job in clinging to his Faith was able to defeat the accusations of the enemy, be a witness of total dedication that brought honor and glory to the Father! At the throne in heaven Job’s positive response to suffering was respected and valued. In the end, after being highly praised for his devotion, all the worldly possessions so harshly taken away in the tumultuous circumstances were restored doubly unto him in time. My earthly father relies upon the example of Job as a beacon of hope and encouragement for his own faithful endurance.
As far as we know, the servant Job was never told the WHY, but was doubly blessed by his positive response to the troubles! I never want to hear the phrase, “oh you of little faith.” directed toward me. I rephrase the WHY of Daddy’’s situation to a personal level and ask, ‘For what purpose am I here in the midst of this?’
I moved back “home” as a fulltime caregiver for both parents and have watched this ongoing process of sinking farther into helplessness for the past five years now. Here lately, as I wipe a brow, hold a hand, give words of comfort and encouragement to carry on, I sadly wonder ‘how much longer’ will we all be on this spiraling pathway.
Tonight the angina awakens him. When I again in silent prayer thoughts ask for peace and clarity of our purpose in this long slow decline, I remembered a story.
A man living in a forest cabin built next to a huge rock was told by the Creator ‘your assignment is to push on this rock.’ The man did so faithfully for many years.
Growing older, he eventually cried out in despair, ‘For all these years I have pushed on this rock as you instructed and it hasn’t moved even an inch with my strongest efforts!’
A heavenly voice responded, ‘I didn’t tell you to move the rock, I told you to push on it! You have done what I said. While faithfully pushing on that rock your body has grown strong and fit. THAT was MY purpose for your struggle, to prepare you for things to come. Now move aside and I will remove the rock myself!’
“I didn’t tell you to move the rock, I only told you to push on it!” Wow! Plot twist! Each time I review this story I am startled to see how the false impression that the man was to MOVE the rock had grown and caused the man to believe that he was failing. Yet, without a correct understanding he was still dutifully following instructions and believed by doing this in time something would change. Without knowing it, he still met the actual unseen goal and then he was shown the answer clearly! No matter how much we humans ponder and imagine, we will never see the true picture until it’s time for the purpose to be revealed! We must Trust The Journey!
I find that my own human heart can lean toward becoming resentful or disillusioned in my pushing. I recognize that at times I’ve lost focus on the pushing against the PD rock and tried to become a savior. I am not designated to be their savior. I must constantly remember that I have not been sent here to rescue anyone from death; only to push against this rock until the assignment is changed.
I’m not sent to lay on my hands, cry out to the heavens, then tell either parent to “take up your bed and walk!” I am not sent here to heal them of their old age infirmities, to guide them to the fountain of youth again by a miraculous healing or changing their diet and helping them exercise.
I HAVE been sent here to review that Our Father in heaven is always faithful, that our Savior knows best what is best for each of us. I am sent as a physical caregiver, so I am to BE the caregiver!
I HAVE been sent here to learn my own personal lessons, to recognize what is meant to change me, by wholly submitting myself with unwavering assurance. I must accept what I cannot change, to willingly and wholeheartedly place my trust in this journey of discerning the next step as I am guided along my own rock-strewn pathway through life.
I am here to attain a strong, purified faith-centered heart and patiently trust HIM to move every rock along the way in His timing and in His Will!
May all the many details of our spiritual journey guide us into His wisdom and forever establish each of us firmly upon that One Solid Rock that is the Foundation of Faith!