Unconditional Love in a Difficult Situation
by Jan Keck
My relationship started out with such high hope. I was finally on the same page with someone. Then multiple health disasters struck the both of us. We had once planned to travel and see the rest of America. Now those plans are cancelled or certainly put on hold indefinitely.
We used to go to the gun club together to practice target and skeet shooting. I enjoyed the hour and a half drive away. The beautiful quarry on the large grounds of the Georgia gun club are something beautiful that one doesn't see every day. Bruce always enjoyed the life of the outdoors on his large boat, fishing for large sea fish. His father Earl taught Bruce everything he knew about sportsmanship, respecting the land and caring for the animals that live in our area. Now that former active life seems dashed and distant. The reverberation of a skeet rifle would go through him very painfully in his present condition. On his best days now he sits in a hydraulic lazy boy assist chair.
Back when my significant other was on the job, a job which he loved with all of his heart for nearly twenty-five years, he was proud to serve others who were hurting as an emergency medical technician/paramedic/medi-vac pilot. He didn't realize that on one call, that he would nearly give the ultimate sacrifice. In the state in which he was training, medical first responders are often the first people on the scene, sometimes even before law enforcement personnel. Such was the case on this occasion. He walked up the stairs to a second floor apartment and knocked on the door. The door was opened by a man high on meth-amphetamines who had a pistol in his hand. The man aimed and fired at Bruce, shooting him in the stomach. Bruce fell from two stories over a railing directly onto his back to the ground.
He recovered from the gunshot wound, the vertebrae in his back were severely injured and required multiple back surgeries advancing into many years later. During our first year together, he had his second back surgery. Two years later, one additional. His stomach wound has never quite healed properly and still often bleeds. By now, we have been together four and half years. His injuries and the back surgeries cumulatively brought on the excruciating diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
As a caregiver I am often worn to a frazzle, exhausted, depressed, but I look at this man who tries to keep doing what things he can do: walk his dog, go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for special dishes, since he still insists on cooking for us every other day. On a good day he may dance with me for a few seconds, then sit down.
I hear his pain from the other room. Some days none of his medications are working. He walks out to feed his birds, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and deer. He smiles and points out the zip-zip movements of the chipmunks in and out of the brush piles.
His personality has changed. Where once he laughed and smiled while watching tv, sometimes he shouts and screams at me and uses language that I'd never heard him use. Most of the time he remembers the way that he acts; he apologizes the next day, then the next day, and so on and so forth. The repetition of this situation has taken its toll upon me. I pray a lot. I visit prayer web sites. I try not to leave him as often. Sometimes this means I have no one to talk to.
Each day he asks for forgiveness, I was angry with him at first. I'm only human. I could only think of what he was doing to me, to us. Then I realized he was asking me for the very same type of forgiveness that God gives me or anyone. What a tall order! I thought it was an impossible order, I truly did. But daily God is giving me the strength to hold up.
I have talked to a few people about this: a pastor, and someone I thought was my friend. The pastor may think the situation too bazaar and very unhealthy. My friend thought much the same and we don't speak any more because I made her extremely uncomfortable. I didn't read the caretaker's manual, I guess.
I'm learning something invaluable though, absolutely priceless. Now I know what love is. I don't understand how Jesus and the Father can love us so much that they forgive us over and over as we stumble along trying (or not) to deal with our foibles and flaws and habits. We repent, repent, repent over and over until we get it right or at least better.
Thanks for reading this. Please say a small one sentence prayer for the many caretakers that are out there taking care of those they love who have suffered ultimate trauma in service to others.