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Posted: April 29, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

I Had a Dream: My Caregiver's Cross

Bill Andrew

As the fulltime caregiver for my wife of almost 54 years, I carry the heavy cross of caregiving willingly and with love.  Carol, who has late-stage Alzheimer's disease, has gone from a vibrant, vital woman, wife, and mother of our children to a warm human being living in a shell of her former self.   

Totally dependent upon me for all of her activities of daily living, I provide what is needed when it is needed and how it is needed without reservation or rancor.  I do so because I love Carol and made a covenant with her and with God in our marriage vows almost 54 years ago.  This is the cross I bear -- a caregiver's cross that gets increasingly large, heavy, and burdensome. 

Most nights, I do not have trouble falling asleep because I am extremely tired -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Other caregivers will not have a problem identifying with this condition.  Some nights I might have a dream or two -- other nights, if I do dream, I do not have any recollection of dreaming. 

However, one night -- after a particularly difficult day -- I had a dream!  And what a dream it was!  I dreamt that I was carrying my big, heavy cross and arrived at the Pearly Gates of Heaven.  St. Peter asked me what I was doing there -- that it was not yet my time.  I told him that my cross was extremely big and heavy, that I was very tired, and I was wondering if there was any way that my cross's size and weight could be made smaller and lighter.  I also told him that I had a lot of faith and prayed a lot, but that the size and weight of the cross seemed to continually get bigger and heavier and I was having a much more difficult time carrying that cross. 

St. Peter seemed to take pity on me.  He suggested that I go to a certain room down the hall and see if I could find a cross there that would be more to my liking.  Mind you, he did not take my cross away  he only told me that I could take any cross I wanted from that room -- and leave my personal cross there.  He also told me to stop by his desk on my way back so that I could "check out" the new cross.  "Thank you, St. Peter," I said with relief and proceeded to the room to which I was directed. 

Upon entering the large room, I found many crosses of various sizes and weights.  I dropped my cross as I entered the room -- what a relief that was -- and proceeded to look around the room for a cross that would be more to my liking.  After some time, I found a small cross that I thought I could handle with ease -- it was the smallest cross in the room!  Picking up this new cross, I went back to St. Peter's desk so that I could check it out -- since it was not yet my time -- and get back to my caregiving activities. 

"St. Peter," I said, "this is the cross that I will take in exchange for the cross that I brought with me when I first arrived here at your desk."  

St. Peter replied, "My son, that cross is a very good choice -- in fact, that is your cross -- the very same cross that you brought with you when you came here!"   

The moral of the story:  while we each think that, as spousal caregivers, our crosses are too big, too heavy, and too burdensome for us, we often find that our crosses are really quite small, very light, and easily handled when compared to the crosses of others.  For example, consider the cross that your spouse is carrying! 

I hope and pray that this story will help you to put some perspective into your personal role as a spousal caregiver and the cross that you carry -- as well as the cross carried by your spouse.  May God bless you and your spouse as you both carry your crosses through life.   

If you would like to share stories about your "caregiver's cross," drop me a line at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.    

WORDS TO CARE BY:

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and

 come after me, can not be my disciple."

(Luke 14: 27)


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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