Most young families don’t need to make room for walkers, wheelchairs, leg braces and restraints. My parents did so, and willingly. All during my childhood, they welcomed both mentally and physically disabled foster children into our home.
I called them sisters and brothers, though their presence sometimes confused me. “Mom, are you sure I’m your REAL kid?” I asked once, too young to understand the rotating door of foster parenting.
I was also too young to understand the difficulties of caregiving. The pouring out of one’s cup to fill someone else’s goes against the natural bent to selfishness. But humility in service is God’s pattern, and to the willing, he provides what’s necessary.
Mom and Dad,” I asked recently, as we sat in their tiny West Coast apartment, “when you agreed to take Mary in, did you consider how hard it would be?”
They looked astonished. “She was easy to look after! We just wanted to love her.” Love her they did, for seventeen years, until her death.
I heard similar words from Emily. After the needs of Ginny (another long-term disabled sister of mine) became too much for my beloved aging parents, Emily’s family embraced her.
When Emily’s mother died, Ginny remained. When Emily left home, Ginny went along. Then Emily married a man with a similar serving heart. The pair have two rambunctious boys now. Ginny remains part of the family.
“She’s so easy to care for,” she told me, when I thanked her for all that. “We just love her!”
Love. It sets genuine caregiving apart from mere maintenance. It beautifies countless difficult caregiving journeys. It reflects Jesus’ own heart and it flows directly from the heart of God. If you’re a caregiver, pray for that first of all and most of all.