When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16
In many ways, I think Jacob was completely unprepared for this “adventure”. He was in a strange place and far away from the certainties and support of home and family. Like Jacob, I felt unprepared to take care of my mom after her stroke. This was a place of uncertainty for me. The original plan was for my dad and mom to move in with us. When he passed away it felt too soon. We needed his wisdom, we needed that special husband’s tenderness only he could provide for mom. After dad’s death, we witnessed her dementia steadily grow worse. I remember clearly how distressing that was. There were many times I felt the need to talk about what we were going through. I did talk to God in my private prayers, a comfort indeed. God also provided a precious friend who was dealing with a similar struggle with whom I could share. Sometimes just knowing someone else is going through the same struggle makes it feel a bit less heavy. Sometimes hearing someone else tell their story, you feel your burden become lighter and easier to bear. Being the caregiver can get incredibly overwhelming emotionally and physically. It can add stress to your other relationships, with your husband or wife, and with your children. However, even when you are not aware of it, God is with you. He knows your heart and that you want to do your best by your loved one. He never told us we would be without trouble but assures us he is there with us every step of the way.
Genesis 28:16 says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go”. This is the story of Jacob as he flees from his brother Esau. When you read through the story you see that God watches closely over Jacob. Does trouble happen to him? It certainly does. God never promised a life without trouble, but he does promise strength, grace, and mercy as we follow him. The responsibility of taking care of someone who cannot care for themselves is guaranteed to bring trouble of one sort or another. For instance, your ability to just leave your house for an afternoon of shopping doesn’t just happen. There comes a time, all too soon it seems when you cannot leave your loved one on their own for any length of time. Perhaps they have difficulty moving around. Perhaps they need a cane or walker. In our case, we felt it was very important to keep mom as active as possible and to bring her along wherever we went. She loved to go shopping, she loved picnics, she loved to travel. This involved quite a bit of extra planning. We carted around a scooter for mom which gave her the ability to go with us wherever we needed or wanted to go. She had severe arthritis which caused quite a bit of pain when she tried to walk very far. She also suffered from Parkinson’s which made her movements unstable. We relied on the scooter when the distance was too far for her to walk. It was a bright shiny blue, her favorite color. I remember it often drew young boys to her side as they were quite fascinated with it. I imagine they thought it was a little mini motorcycle. Mom didn’t mind, she enjoyed children and was quite ready to show it off. She would proudly show them the controls and how it worked.
In Genesis 28, later on in the chapter, Jacob makes a vow to God. In verse 20 he says, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God”. There came a time when mom had a wonderful opportunity she would never have again. Her high school was having a 50th reunion. She had kept in touch over the years with her best friend who was planning on attending the reunion. My uncle, (mom’s older brother) was also planning on attending. He very much wanted to give mom the opportunity to come along. He knew that mom was having difficulty with dementia, but felt sure we could come up with a plan so that she could go. The problem was we would have to let mom fly on her own to meet my Uncle in Kansas City. It was terrifying in many ways. We contacted the airline and gave our concerns. They assured us they would provide someone to get mom on and off the plane. We were able to book a non-stop flight which was essential. We were also able to obtain a wheelchair at the airport and put her into the hands of a very kind employee who helped settle her in the wheelchair and assure her that he would get her on the plane. We watched a bit nervous as he wheeled her away. We had given my Uncle explicit plane information so that he could meet her the minute she got off the plane. All we had to do now was wait, I have to admit anxiously, to hear that he had her safely in his care. The Lord was with her every step of that trip, just as he had been with Jacob. She landed safely and my Uncle was talking to me on the phone, nervousness in his voice as he watched for his sister. I still remember the relief in his voice as he spotted her being wheeled in his direction. They had a wonderful school reunion. Mom was overjoyed to see her best friend and was able to tell us a bit of her adventure. She and my Uncle were able to share in (as it turns out the last) a small reunion of their own. My mother was my Uncle’s baby sister, he was very fond of her. Because of her dementia, it was a very scary decision to let her go but I am so very happy we did. I know also that God was watching over her every step of the way.
I have taken comfort and strength from the story of Jacob. He left the security and support of home. He was in a strange place. God kept his promise and was with Jacob every step of the difficult adventure. Being the caregiver is difficult. There are many challenges along the way. God is aware and watching over you. He knows your struggle and is there with strength and guidance.
Please comment below and let me know how I can pray for you and the challenges you face. Be sure to click on the link to the Alzheimer’s Association. Here you will find answers and support.