by Peggi Tustan
“The second half of life will be easier. The kids will be grown and independent. I’ll have more freedom to pursue my own interests. I’ll be mature enough in my faith to handle any trouble that comes my way…”
Or so I thought. Reality, as usual, turned out a bit differently. For when my oldest child was heading off to college, my mom began having circulation issues and lost her leg. With Mom away in the hospital and rehab, my dad placed a frozen pot pie in the hot oven—still in its box. It was an early sign of dementia. I flew to Florida from Ohio four times that year to assist. The next year, we moved my parents back to Ohio, into our home. Life got real hard real quick.
“Why is this so hard?” I kept asking God. I loved my parents. I wanted to help them. I should be mature enough to handle this. But by the end of that first year, I was spiraling downward into depression.
“Who said life’s second half gets easier? It wasn’t me. Forget that idea,” I sensed the Spirit whisper as I was out walking one day to clear my head. “Your faith journey is a trek up my mountain. The longer you live, the higher you climb, the steeper the trail. Steep aint easy. You’ll lose your footing, stumble, even fall. Just remember. You’re not alone. I’ll be right there to catch you. In some places, the trail will level off and get easier. You can rest there awhile. But eventually, we’ll resume the trek. As we reach those higher elevations, you’ll be able to look out and see how far you’ve come. The view will take your breath away!”
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple
will be established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
(Micah 4:1 NIV)
My caring-for-aging-parents path was taking me straight up God’s mountain. No matter how deeply we love, caregiving isn’t easy. Just accepting that our parents need care—the ones who cared for us—is difficult. My mother who loved to walk and dance was confined to a wheelchair. The one who prided herself on remembering birthdays, forgot mine. Ouch. My gentle father’s anger flared in frustration, unable to zip his coat or open a package of cookies. The animated storyteller sat silent. His stories stolen by dementia. My heart ached. It hurts because we love.
And because we love, we’ll find those breathtaking views. As my parents’ needs increased, they relied more on each other. The bickering of earlier years was gone. They were sweethearts once more, holding hands and stealing kisses. They relied more on Jesus, too. I’d often walk into a room and catch them in spontaneous prayer. After living a lifetime of faith, grace and peace enveloped them. Death held no fear. On my father’s ninetieth birthday, he winked and assured me, “God’s waiting on me.” His climb almost over. The summit in sight. Glorious view!
So, I made my peace with reality. Having my parents live in our home overwhelmed me. That’s okay. It didn’t mean I loved them any less. Or trusted God less. It means we all have our strengths and weaknesses. After that first year, my parents and sisters’ family purchased a home together big enough for all of them. We hired caregivers to come in and assist. I continued to handle all my parents’ financial, medical, and legal needs. They stayed in our home every other weekend to give my sister’s family a break. For six years, we walked a steep yet navigable path.
My parents are now safely home with Jesus. Though I miss them. My second half of life is looking more as I once imagined. I have time to pursue some of my own interests (like writing). I don’t know what tomorrow holds. The mountain waits. I have a long climb ahead.
But for today, I’m content to sit back and enjoy the view.
Peggi Tustan is an ordinary woman seeking to live an extraordinary Real Life in Christ. She writes, teaches, speaks, and mentors women in Northeast Ohio. Stop by and visit her at www.peggitustan.com.
Photo of her parents courtesy of Peggi.