Honestly, I never thought myself as much of a caregiver. Yes, I loved my ministry as a mom and wife, but that was in my wheelhouse. I was MADE for it!
Yet, God chose to stretch me.
In 2001, an elderly couple asked me and my husband to be their medical guardians. Their only child had been killed in 1997 at the age of 40. So, they chose us and we chose them. From that moment on, we were their ‘Smith kids.’
We sailed along for several years…no major hiccups. Even in their mid-70s, they were able to take care of themselves. I stayed in the wings, taking them to appointments, knowing their medical issues but leaving it up to them.
Then, in 2009, Mrs. Roberson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The stretching I spoke of earlier, this is where it starts. The decision was made to fight it. Since I’m a cancer survivor (that actually came in handy!), I knew the lingo and the cancer community in Lubbock. The race was on. Chemo, radiation, surgeries, colostomy, and the devastating side effects of all that. They looked to me for strength, guidance, and hands-on care.
Mr. Roberson wasn’t in good physical condition, so I learned quickly to love even though my flesh was saying ‘no’ when treating the chemo side effects and changing a colostomy bag. I learned to fight for her because, frankly, the elderly are often ignored. When I thought I had reached my limit I would rely on Psalm 71:9:
Do not cast me away when I’m old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
Mrs. Roberson died in 2012. I had promised her she wouldn’t die alone, and that I would take care of Mr. Roberson. I kept those promises. I learned so much from her graciousness and strength in the battle.
Mr. Roberson never left the nursing home after her death. Battling years of obesity, a bad heart, old and worn out joints that left him in agony, a slight addiction to pain meds, and many other issues…it often proved too much. Hard decisions legally fell to me and my husband. Decisions that were made somewhat easier by the promises we had made to Mr. Roberson: he wouldn’t die hurting, he wouldn’t die alone, and we would take care of him and fight for him.
He died this last November.
I’m so happy to have allowed myself to care for them. We were related by choice, not blood. After we had chosen each other as family, I came across this scripture in my prayers:
If anyone doesn’t provide for their family, he has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8
I was created in part to take care of those two old people. I see now that by allowing God to use me in ways that were so uncomfortable, He taught me humility and compassion. He taught me to get over myself and my hang-ups and discomfort with sickness and disease and death. The lesson is to love with unflinching compassion.
This post was written by Deborah Smith. To read more about her, click here.