God's Brave Women - Donna's Story
I remember sitting there in the year 2000 and watching that TV documentary on caring for hospice patients. I was so moved by the compassion, grace, and dignity I saw! I wept at the end and told the Lord that I would welcome the opportunity to love on someone in their last few months in life. Little did I know my best friend at the time, my sweet mother-in-law, would make that quiet surrender a reality within weeks.
Dolly was my confidant, my cheerleader, and the massive “I’ve got your back” force to this messy mom of five. My children, ages 6 to 18 years old, AH-dored her! And now she was hit hard with cancer. Now it was time for me to bravely pour into her. I accompanied her to every doctor appointment, test and chemo treatment over the next two years. I still have the soup spoons to prove it. Every time I made a run to the hospital cafeteria for her beloved broccoli cheddar soup during her chemo infusion, she pocketed the large mouthed soup spoon. I treasure those spoons.
Countless stories from her childhood and life were shared as we spent hours together. She told me things she never shared with a soul. I can say it was an absolute honor to usher this saint of a woman to Jesus’ arms that March 2002. I was literally thanking God for such a sweet opportunity to serve and love on her so beautifully, when He interrupted me with, “And now you shall serve the Judas.” I knew exactly who God was referring to. Earlier on, Dolly had asked me to care for her husband after her passing. She was caretaker of this man who had major unmanaged mental health issues. Never mind that he was also blind, overly demanding, and a verbally, as well as emotionally, abusive man. Time to go Brav-ER, Donna.
"I can say it was an absolute honor to usher this saint of a woman to Jesus’ arms that March 2002. I was literally thanking God for such a sweet opportunity to serve and love on her so beautifully, when He interrupted me with, “And now you shall serve the Judas.”'
So, with great trepidation, I moved into a space I did not want to be. It took intense prayer, crying, and more prayer to care for this man who called 10 times a day and was hospitalized monthly (8 mild heart attacks — not a typo). Meanwhile, he insisted on living ALONE. There were endless errands, repeated accidents and frequent 911 calls… One to tell the paramedics he was out of coffee. I laugh now, but my days were full-on adrenal mode. He refused to let me help manage his financial world because he was sure I was at stealing from him. Thank God the local bank knew him and called me one day to tip me off that he had withdrawn all his money in order to take a train to New York to “make it big one last time” on Broadway Street! He was sitting on a couch at the bank with 1000’s of dollars in CASH with an unknown driver when I intercepted. This was just one save of the many adrenaline scenarios. Someday I’ll tell you of the blood bath scene I came upon as this blind man (who was on blood thinners) gashed his head while continuing to meander in the kitchen to make coffee at 3 AM! After a year of this, we started the Nursing Home merry-go-round. That man was in every single nursing home in the county! All eight. The nursing facilities had either kicked him out or he took a cab “outa there,” including a cab trip to a seedy hotel outside of town.
Then the tide turned. I had hit rock bottom and knew my children and home needed me BADLY. So, I withdrew from all care-taking and visiting. He was finally glad to stay put and make the best of it. (What?!) On New Year’s Eve 2003, he called me, but a different person was on the other end of the line. My father-in-law said he had just finished a delightful dinner of lobster and dancing at the nursing home. He ended it with, “Donna, I would have loved to dance with you. Can we dance someday? I want to thank you for being so kind with me. You are my dearest daughter.” I was stunned by his words. Then that familiar Holy whisper told me it was going to be over soon. At 3 AM the nurse called and said he was found unresponsive. I held his hand in ER and whispered, “Dad, you know you’re going Home right? I’m going to walk you there like I did Mom.” He passed a day later, having made peace with his Lord. And this daughter-in-law’s journey came to a bittersweet end.
"I held his hand in ER and whispered, “Dad, you know you’re going Home right? I’m going to walk you there like I did Mom.” He passed a day later, having made peace with his Lord. And this daughter-in-law’s journey came to a bittersweet end."
I know that when I get to heaven I will surely recognize my Momma, Dad, and sweet Dolly – their genteel, loving nature will be shining as always! But it is Peter, my father-in-law, that I am most intrigued to see again. For I will finally get to see him as the man he was created to be. Amazing Grace indeed, for I will see the reflection of God’s glory in those beautiful blue eyes “that now can see.”
Donna is a grateful wife to Rich, momma of five adult children and grandma to 11 grandchildren. Though Nursing was her first career, her true passion lies with Redemption and Restoration in people’s lives. Donna serves at her local Willow Creek Community Church body with great joy in the Woman’s Ministry. She, Rich and their beloved doggies reside in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Feel free to connect with Donna on Facebook HERE.
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