Life’s Burdens Can Be Opportunities For Grace

One of my greatest fears, besides dying before Brian, is becoming a burden to others when my body starts to fail me, leaving me unable to care for Brian. Genetics are definitely on my side though: both my maternal and paternal grandmothers lived to 96 years and 102 years old respectively. So, it’s very possible that I’m going to be around for a while yet… Perhaps modern medicine will advance to the point where I will have bionic body parts with no limitations, for anything is possible.. In the meantime, I realize the importance of self care, so I try to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. I do this for myself, as well as for Jim and Brian. No doubt the pandemic has negatively effected all of these routines dramatically this past year, but hopefully all of us can get back to our regular self care routines very soon for our own sakes, as well as for those we love.

Despite our diligence in persevering with self care that will benefit us and our families, there will still come that day when we may need help for ourselves. Of course we are used to providing assistance for our special needs children, in fact, most of us have had teachers, volunteers, home therapists, caretakers, and babysitters on board for an extremely long time. I thank God for each and every one of those individuals past, present, and future, who help us to help Brian, for without their assistance, I know that I would have aged much more rapidly. We will always need to depend upon others to help our sons and daughters, but our constant advocating and intense focus on our children’s needs leaves little room for consideration of our own. The routines and repetition of many mundane days with our kids is often the reality, while our bodies are simultaneously changing, slowing down, and physically hurting in many instances.

I was specifically reminded of aging when my Mom came to stay with us last Spring for several weeks during the coronavirus. Mom is almost 90 years and lives alone in the home where I grew up. She is incredibly remarkable for her age and I often forget that she is a senior citizen and has been for quite a while. My siblings and I were very concerned for Mom’s welfare when the pandemic first happened, plus she had experienced a dehydration episode that required a brief hospital stay, so that was the tipping point that brought her to our house. I learned a lot of things about Mom and myself during her stay with us over several weeks. There were many lessons in patience, compassion, and gratitude for ourselves, each other, and the realization that getting older is really hard… The spirit of self reliance is especially strong in my Mom. She is fiercely independent and doesn’t like to ask for help, nor does she ever want to be a burden to anyone, so it is difficult for her to accept help, even when it was apparent that it was necessary during this particular time.

As you can imagine, there were many days that I struggled with both Mom’s and Brian’s needs last Spring, a classic “sandwich generation” scenario, where one is carrying for both children and aging parents. It was definitely hard and sometimes quite exasperating, especially during a pandemic, but there was also a grace and an honor to this particular life experience. I learned from Mom what a privilege it is to care for the parent who cared so well for me when I was a child. Even in the midst of our struggles, I was ultimately reminded of how very fortunate it was for Mom and I to spend time this particular time together. We created new memories through our conversations over many cups of tea, sharing laughter, tears, and hugs. Mom and I also chatted about many things while doing chores together or cooking dinner. We talked about Mom’s youth, her special relationship with Dad, and stories about relatives in Ireland, as well as my grandparents. I feel very blessed to have spent this time with Mom and never take it for granted.. I especially loved the way Mom and Brian bonded during her time with us; it was another privilege to witness such love between the two of them.

Brian has taught me that he receives and gives grace as his burdens are shared with me and Jim. In other words, in Brian’s weaknesses, he is strong enough and willing to accept help for his challenges. There is no resistance on his part or pride that gets in the way of allowing us to help him; in fact, Brian welcomes sharing his burdens with us! Now of course, this is exhausting and I certainly wish Brian’s burdens weren’t so many for his sake, as well as ours. It is our hope that Brian will continue to acquire more independent skills, but it is a fact that he will always need 24/7 care. This is so scary to consider, especially when I know deep down that I may not always be able to take care of my son. I am blessed to enjoy good health at the moment, but who knows what tomorrow brings? The day will come when our bodies will decline and we may need help for ourselves and with our children.

This is when I really have to trust God for His provision of resources, even when I don’t see exactly how things are actually going to work out. Yet, I have learned, especially by the way Brian lives his life, that impossible situations are exactly God’s specialty when we rely on Him fully for all of our needs. It’s difficult to give up control in a world that covets self reliance and frowns upon dependence. In my personal experience, giving all of my burdens and concerns to God, like Brian, no matter what they are, and trusting Him for the details, is the best thing for my peace of mind. Now this doesn’t mean that I necessarily remain idle; I am still actively doing my part, while simultaneously trusting God for the outcome. Ultimately, He is always faithful..

I pray that I will always have the grace to accept my aging, and be willing to receive help for my burdens should I need it. I pray that I will trust, like Brian, that my needs will be met and that I have the courage to endure my afflictions, whatever they are, as I become older. I also pray that I will always display gratitude and grace towards those who may need to help me, as well as my son. May I have the privilege of growing old with the ones I love and I wish you the very same! God Bless us, Everyone! Until next time, thanks for reading!

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