My husband gasped for breath, and there was nothing I could do but call 911. We barely made it to the hospital. He was drowning from the fluid that had built up around his lungs and heart. The diagnosis was congestive heart failure. After removing nine liters of fluid, his smile returned, and he breathed easy. Full-time caregiving fell into my lap that day.
Over the next six years, his health continued to decline because of the adverse effects of exposure to Agent Orange when he served in the Navy. His ability to drive ended, much to his regret, and I became his personal chauffeur.
In 2022, he was in the hospital thirteen times for weeks at a time and in rehab twice. He was on home health in between each hospital stay. He’d had a tumor removed from his left ear in late 2021 that resulted in hearing loss in that ear and caused Bell’s palsy, which never healed. His face drooped on the left side as though he’d had a stroke. He was unhappy with his appearance. The stress of keeping him encouraged and upbeat weighed heavily on my shoulders.
If that wasn’t enough, in September and October 2022, he had to have both legs amputated. Our hearts were crushed, but we kept smiling despite his self-esteem plummeting. After two and a half months of fighting infections in the hospital, he went to rehab for a month, then sent home and put on long-term hospice. His body did not respond to the amputations as we’d hoped. The infection became resistant to IV antibiotics. His upper body strength dwindled.
Caregiving intensified with each hospital stay, and the level of care topped the scale. We prayed together and talked about what our hopeful future together looked like. We dreamed big, read our Bibles, and trusted God was in control.
No one can truly understand caregiving’s responsibilities, commitments, and exhaustion unless you’ve been there, especially a 24/7 caregiver. The sleepless nights, the constant jumping up and down day and night, running for medication, holding hands, offering encouragement and love in the wee hours of the morning, crying together, grabbing blankets, raising and lowering the bed, in and out of the wheelchair, adjusting pillows, etc.
I loved my husband, and I have no regrets the time it took to care for him. He deserved my personal attention after all he’d done, providing for his family, serving his country, and protecting the city for thirty-three years as a police captain. He was a genuine man of integrity.
Three days before his departure, he told me we needed to talk. I sat in a chair close to his hospice hospital bed and asked what he wanted to discuss. He wanted to discuss his dying and what my life would look like after he left. My heart sank.
He needed to know I would be okay with him gone. I told him I’d miss him immensely and I would cry. I assured him our grown kids were nearby and they’d watch out for me. He was more concerned about me and my welfare than he was about himself. That’s love, and it went both ways.
The third day after our conversation, at one-twenty-six a.m. on January 13, 2023, I stood by his bed and wiped his brow. I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. He drew one last peaceful breath and departed for his heavenly home. He knew I was there with him, holding his hand, and I knew . . . he knew. A huge comfort amid the sorrow.
My experiences in caregiving have given me a new appreciation, respect, and understanding for those who serve in this capacity. I encourage you never to take caregiving as a second-rate position. I can’t help but believe that Caregivers hold a special place in heaven for the love, patience, compassion, and gentleness extended to those in need.
Award-winning author Loretta Eidson loves writing romantic suspense. She believes in the power of prayer and loves putting her hero and heroine in realistic predicaments where they must trust God to pull them through.
Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency represents Loretta.
She loves chocolate, caramel, and coffee. Loretta lives in North Mississippi, close to her family.
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Tracy Crump knows from experience the burdens caregivers shoulder after caring for both her parents and her 100-year-old mother-in-law. A former ICU nurse, Tracy dispenses hope in her award-winning book, Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness Twenty-two of her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and she has published hundreds of devotions, articles, and short stories in diverse publications such as Guideposts books, Focus on the Family, Woman’s World, and Ideals.