Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.
There is nothing like a crisis to change a person’s perspective on life. When my husband, Dan, went through colon cancer surgery, my world was shaken. I had recently started graduate school and we had purchased our first rental property. Being in the hospital with him brought back memories of all the times I had come face to face with my own or a loved one’s death.
This time, however, things were different. As I watched Dan struggle, I realized how much I had depended upon him in the past. During every crisis we had weathered together, he had been there for me. His presence had been an anchor in my life since the time we were married. What would I do if he were gone? Who would be there for me when he could not? How would I face the cold, cruel world from which he had sheltered me for so long?
Time stood still as these unanswered questions filled my mind and heart. It was not until I heard the same words echoed from the lips of our children that I was able to process through my own feelings, pull myself together and move on. I needed to find strength, and make a plan for my own, and our family’s future.
Hospitalization, possible death or future disability
What if he doesn't make it? How do we decide what treatment to use?
Daily care and supervision
Who will provide for their needs? Where will they go if we can't be at home?
Confusion of priorities
Why are we going through this? When will it end?
When we are faced with a crisis situation, uncertainty clouds our judgement. For me, the possibility of losing my husband was like being hit by a freight train! I was standing on the tracks staring at the oncoming light and was frozen with fear. I knew that I needed to move, but where and how?
We were dependent upon his income for our survival. Our housing was connected with his employment. If something happened to him, we would be penniless and homeless. This reality did not sink in until I was with one of my daughters and we were talking with the school counselor. She asked if my daughter had any questions. What came out of her mouth shocked me back to reality. She said, "What will happen to me if Dad dies?"
Up to that point, I had been so concerned about myself that I had not given thought to the needs of our children. The counselor assured my daughter that she would not be an orphan, as she would still have me. From that moment on, I realized that the medical people would take care of my husband, and that I needed to be there for my children.
I put a contingency plan into place. We completed the purchase of the rental property where I was attending school. If necessary, I could move the children to live with me there, finish my schooling, and move forward with full-time employment.Our needs would be met.
With my husband in the hospital bed, both his and my needs changed. He needed my support, and I could not receive it from him while he was suffering. At first, I tried to be brave, and sacrifice my sleep and comfort to see that I could be there for him.
I was driving back and forth from our home in Ray, a distance of 70 miles from where he and my schooling were in Minot. Our family did the local paper routes, and someone needed to drive the car for the route to be done. With winter upon us, riding bike and walking were not an option.
I thought I could do it. My children needed me and my husband needed me, and I needed my schooling. After just a week, I was exhausted. As I stood in my husband's hospital room and a winter storm was on the horizon, his aunt reminded me that my first priority was to be with my husband. For the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer, my husband put his foot down.
He told me that I did not need to drive back and forth any more. His brother-in-law offered to drive the children on the paper route, and his wife, my husband's sister, would see that they received nourishing meals on a regular basis. As I lay down to rest that night, I slept peacefully for the first time since the crisis had entered our lives.
Just as Steven Curtis Chapman so aptly sings in "Heaven is the Face of a Little Girl," our heaven on earth is within the walls of our own homes. God is our Father, and when we feel close to our family members, we feel close to him. Life becomes precious indeed when we draw loved ones around us while weathering a crisis.
When the life of one that we love dearly is threatened, we automatically turn to God, pleading for his grace and mercy to be with us. We realize that our family is everything we have. There is nothing more important or sacred than the love we have for one another.
Until the storm passes, we may have to leave the comfort of our homes and take up temporary residence somewhere else. Doing so means that our sleeping, eating, and routine habits are interrupted. It is easy to become impatient and get on each other's nerves.
We are like a ship being tossed about by the ocean. We never know what will happen. We could be swept off the deck by a crashing wave, or plunged to a watery grave when the ship takes a sudden nose dive. As a result, we are physically and emotionally exhausted.
If we are not careful, our emotional reservoirs will run dry. We know that this is happening when we start feeling that we do not care anymore, that we just want the crisis to be over. This is a dangerous place to be. Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and obtaining emotional support are high priority.
Even after we get back on solid ground, it takes time for things to develop some normalcy. Much love and patience is required by all members of the family. Adjustments in responsibilities are necessary, especially when the crisis turns into a long-term care situation.
My husband's cancer was a big part of our lives for several years. He went back and forth to his chemotherapy appointments while I completed my schooling. Ironically, we were able to spend more time together as a result of the crisis than we would have otherwise.
We recently celebrated the tenth year since his surgery. He has been free and clear of cancer and the affects of the chemotherapy are just a memory, but the lessons we learned as a family are ongoing. We value each other much more deeply than we ever thought possible.
We thank God for the gift of life each day because we know that at any given moment, things could change. We have talked about our future and have a plan in place, should something happen, we know what we will do.
We cherish each moment that we have with our children and grandchildren because we know that in the end, family is all that really matters.
© 2014 Denise W Anderson