Caring for the Caregiver

I’ve received a torrent of e-mail about my previous post that offered a tribute to my wife (in fact, one friend wrote about the post in her blog as well). I appreciate all of your kind thoughts. It’s good to know that people do seem to care, especially when we so often seem to read news stories that tell us the world has become an incredibly uncaring place in which to live. I don’t plan to cover every detail about the journey Rebecca and I traveled, but she was sick for a long time—about 5½ years.

Most of that time I cared for her at home because I work from my house. Even so, it would have been impossible for me to care for her at home if a relatively large group of people hadn’t donated their time and resources to helping me. Caring for the caregiver is something you seldom hear about, but it’s an essential component of making home care of someone who is quite ill possible. A caregiver who is well supported by others can focus attention on the person in need, rather than constantly fending off requests (and requirements) for other needs.

I’m not going to name all of the people who helped me because I’d invariably leave someone out and hurt feelings that I never intended (nor wanted) to hurt. However, the group is relatively large and is made up of friends, family, people from our church, and hospice volunteers amongst others. In fact, some of these people probably helped without my knowing it and never asked for any thanks in return.

There is at least one incident where I know someone helped me and I don’t know who they are. I was in the hospital, waiting for word about my wife’s status, and fell asleep on an incredibly uncomfortable couch (it most assuredly was stuffed with rocks). I remember waking briefly as someone brought a pillow, helped me lay down, and covered me up. They simply said that I couldn’t help my wife if I made myself sick. If I said anything in response, I don’t remember it. I had been up for three days and was exhausted from the ordeal we had been through. I asked the hospital staff the next day about it and no one knew who might have helped me. If you’re that person and you’re reading this post, please accept my grateful thanks long after the help was offered.

My blog focuses quite a lot on self-sufficiency topics. However, no one is an island. Even the most self-sufficient person in the world is going to need help from someone at some time. Rebecca and I have actually received a lot of help over the years from a lot of different people. When our garden failed to produce something we really needed, we were often able to exchange something we had in excess for the item we needed. The act of interacting with others, helping others, meeting people’s needs in small ways is what makes life worth living. So, the next time you read that truly downer story in the newspaper, remember that this blog post exists. There truly is hope. A lot of people have cared for this caregiver in the past and I plan to help others in the future.

 

A Tribute to My Wife and Friend

Those of you who know me well understand the role that Rebecca has played in my life for the past 33+ years. We weren’t just husband and wife—we were also the dearest of friends. Over the years our love has grown substantially until it’s almost hard to define where one of us begins and the other ends. Everything in our lives was shared completely and there was no task that one did that the other didn’t participate in. Rebecca and I didn’t just live together, we worked and played together as well. If you have reviewed the posts in this blog very often, you’ll see that the two of use did absolutely everything together. People have grown used to seeing us working, playing, and living side-by-side. Today, all that has ended. My wife and friend has departed this life and gone to heaven.

Rebecca and I grew food together, preserved it, and then enjoyed the fruits of our labors during the winter months. When I went out fishing, she was there with me. One of us never went to the movies without having the other in tow. I cut the wood and she stacked it. Even in my writing, Rebecca was always there by my side doing her part. She did the proofreading, filing, research, phone calling, and a great many other tasks that were all necessary to make my books the great products they are. In short, she was a very dear part of me.

As part of her legacy, Rebecca was known as the cookie lady. She has made more cookies than anyone else I know and not just one or two kinds. It would be hard to count the number of different kinds of cookies she tried during her life. One thing is certain, they all tasted great. I never met a Rebecca cookie I didn’t like (and many other people can say the same).

Her loss will be felt a great deal by our community. Rebecca was always the public face that people saw. Everywhere she went she spread happiness and her smile is the stuff of legends. I often thought her smile was the best part of her. It’s the part that I’ll miss the most and she kept it until the very end.

It is with great sorrow that I bid her body farewell today, but her spirit will always remain a part of me. I’ll continue writing and practicing the self-sufficiency techniques that the two of use have created during our time together—to do any less would be unthinkable. I do need time to recover from such a great loss. Yes, I’ll try to continue providing you with great blog posts and yes, I’ll answer your reader e-mails as soon as I can. I hope that you’ll bear with me though because some delays are inevitable during this time of grief. Thank you in advance for your understanding.