In early 1998, while I was in the hospital in Missouri recovering from my 8th heart catheterization 8 months, my dad had a stroke and was taken to the hospital in Kansas. At the time, I could not grasp what was happening to my dad let alone what the next several months would bring. I was selfishly only thinking of myself at the time and thus incapable of manifesting much compassion for anyone else, including my own dad.
Three weeks later, my dad was moved to a rehabilitation hospital with the expressed goal of helping him regain physical and mental facilities after his stroke. He was fighting the strict regimen, refusing treatment and sinking into a state of depression. My mom coaxed me into making the trip over to talk to my dad even though my own physical state was somewhere between precarious and dire.
I was in no way prepared for what I saw and heard when I went to visit my dad that evening. Even though my dad had been in hospitals many times over the years, this time was different. As soon as I entered his room, he motioned for me to come over to his bed where he immediately grabbed my arm with all his strength and somehow managed to tell me to get him out of there.
Over the next day or two I managed to understand him enough to know that he had given up and wanted to go home to die. He could no longer read, speak coherently or walk without a walker. My heart ached as I saw this man who I dearly loved wasting away before my very eyes. My heart was torn between the desire to see him get better and the realization that he was a 84 year old man who had drunk far too much alcohol and smoked far too many cigarettes in his life to recover.
Four days after I got there, the hospital director kicked my dad out because he would not try hard enough to do their program. With nowhere else to take him, we took him home where my mom and I would try to care for him until we could find a nursing home with an empty bed.
For a day or two, my dad did fairly well. He sat in “his” chair and watched television and hobbled around the house with his walker. But, he could not dress himself nor could he formulate the right words to communicate his desires or needs. Within a few days, my mom sent me out to find a nursing home where he could be properly taken care of.
Somewhere during this time an incident took place that had a very profound impact on me. In fact, I think this one incident not only forever changed how I viewed my dad, it brought the reality of being old and disabled home to me for the first time in my life. I had visited my elderly grandmother and other relatives but that was different.
What took place with my dad was intensely personal and opened my eyes to things that would be the focus of my life for the next decade. In the days to come, I have decided to share what happened back in February of 1998 and its impact on the next ten years. I pray what I share will help those of you dealing with elderly parents or a loved one dealing with a disability of any kind.
Manifesting the love of God toward someone physically or emotionally incapable of receiving it truly is a challenge. I pray that the burning desire of our hearts is to love the unlovable and touch the untouchable. Jesus embraced theleper and in so doing made him whole. I think we should be willing and able to do the same since our heart’s desire is to love as He did.
I learned at an early aged what the word "disability" meant. My dad was permanently disabled in a terrible accident when he was a 19 year old airman in the U.S. Navy. I remember playing with back braces, shoe lifts canes and crutches (for sometimes his legs would give him additional trouble and he would have to resort to them for a bit).
Living with chronic pain as well as depression and epilepsy which developed after his accident due to injuries to his legs, back and head, our medicine cabinet was like a pharmacy and we were warned to NEVER touch the meds! Yes, as we got older my dad took to carefully counting his meds. I remember learning about some of those meds in health class.
I had to learn early on that people are not always fully responsible for the things they say or do when there is illness and/or injury involved. My dad made certain that we understood that. Sometimes it was the pain, illness and/or drugs talking. We needed to remember that deep down inside, he loved us with all of his heart. I'll be honest and say that sometimes that was very hard to remember but I did. If I hadn't, we would have had a very different relationship. Ironically, it was a man that suffered so much physically and mentally and did not come to know Christ until a few weeks before his death at age 43 from colon cancer who taught me so very much about the love God has toward me as my Heavenly Father.
When we love the unlovable and touch the untouchable we are also blessed.