Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.—Psalm 37:24 (ESV)
A Caregiver’s First Commandment
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.—JOSHUA 1:9 [NIV]
“I found a penny in the street—roughed up, beaten and defaced. I picked it up and kept it, for there’s still value here. As I dropped it in my pocket, I thought: There’s my life, too. Roughed up, beaten and defaced . . . yet God still is the center of my soul.”
This excerpt is from my journal dated October 1998, a year after my wife, Martha, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 50. When hit with this troubling news, I feared that my experience and skills were too shallow for what lay ahead. Desperate, I searched for answers—medical, physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author, says: “He who attempts to act and do things for others . . . without deepening his own self-understanding . . . and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others.”
Over the course of my volatile 17-year odyssey with Martha, I finally learned this: If I was going to care for my loved one with empathy and love, then I must care for myself.
I call this the “Caregiver’s First Commandment,” and I try my best to follow it.
Dear Father, thank you for teaching me to care for myself as I also care for my loved one.
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