The Sky is Falling – Feb. 4, 2018
We can laugh at Chicken Little and friends getting all excited and over reacting in thinking the sky was falling.
It’s not so funny when it’s our personal sky that is falling and our world is crumbling and caving in on us. I know – I’ve been there, done that.
My first husband Richard was disabled for over 20 years. He had strokes of undetermined cause – I think his tours of duty in Vietnam had something to do with it. When the sky really started falling was when I had to place him in a dementia unit in a nursing home. He kept ‘escaping’ from the nursing homes close to home and would be found walking down the highway. Not good in a hot Texas sun and the speed limit is 70 mph. Finally we found a home for him in Mart, TX about 100 miles from our house. It was also close to the Waco VA for medical treatment. Financially it got even tougher since all our assets (not much) had to be liquidated to pay the nursing home. I was allowed about $1000 a month for my expenses. I lived in a guest house next to the house my sons were renting. I didn’t own a car. No savings accounts, no retirement funds. But our family was managing to survive. Then Thanksgiving came – the boys and I got Ricky home for the day and it was a disaster. He didn’t know where he was, who he was with, and was in turmoil. Shortly after he had another stroke – very minor – but paralyzed his throat and he could no longer swallow. His mind by this time was not functioning. He didn’t recognize me or his granddaughter anymore. My visits became a time when I laid on his bed next to him and cuddled him like a child. He spent more and more time in a fetal position in bed. Believe me the sky was falling. Then the earth started caving in – I was called to the nursing home to make decisions for his care – they wanted me to make 5, 10, and 20 year plans. I really lost it. 20 more years of this! He didn’t even know who I was. Married for almost 25 years and he didn’t recognize me or my voice. 20 more years of not having any money and no hope to save any. 20 more years of being responsible for someone that was for all practical purposes was dead to our family and we had to wait to bury the body and begin the grieving process. Then – he began having serious infections from the feeding tube – no matter what they did the infections came back; they used stronger and stronger medications with the result that even more of his brain function was destroyed. He was a vegetable. But still my responsibility. I couldn’t divorce him even if I wanted to. He was incompetent to participate in any legal matter. Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I was in a state of fear. Unrelenting fear. I was afraid of what would happen to Ricky – would I make the right decisions. Afraid of losing my job and what little I had. (Part of my pay was a company car and gas credit card) Afraid how all of this would affect my boys who spent most of their childhood in denial that Ricky was even their dad. Only their close friends found out about that. Most of their friends thought of Ricky as the guy who lived with their mom. Terribly afraid of what would happen to me. I was only 42 with no future. The more money I earned the more the nursing home took. 20 more years!
I wish I could stand up here and tell you how well I handled all of this and how I leaned on God and had peace and comfort. But that’s not true. I was a basket case. I was angry with the church I had attended and volunteered with. They told me they couldn’t help me – all I wanted was someone to take Ricky for coffee on Saturday so I could have the house to myself and catch a break. They couldn’t help me – they didn’t understand about his brain damage and it scared them. They were afraid of a couple of hours with him – I had him 24/7 think how scared I was.
So no help from the church, no help from the VA, no help from my parents, this was my problem. I had nowhere to turn – you bet I was afraid
Then things took a turn for the worse. Ricky’s doctor called me and asked me what I was doing – why was I keeping him alive – she suggested that I authorize having the feeding tube removed and letting him die! Stress and fear were at a new level. Now I could add guilt to the list. Did I keep him alive and continue the cycle of infection and powerful drugs or did I let him die and feel like I killed him.
I don’t know what frightened me more – Ricky living or Ricky dying.
Were my fears irrational and blown out of proportion? I didn’t think so. Was God present in my time of trouble? I didn’t think so. Would God work to make something good out of all this? I didn’t think so. My feelings about God were seriously affected by the rejection from my church. I felt that if they rejected me that God would too.
I was wrong – I had moved away from God into a world that was collapsing around me. But God had not moved. He was still there and he was working to take care of me and my family. He had a plan for Ricky and one for me.
I can now say with the Psalmist – God is my refuge and my strength. A very present help in my time of trouble. I am not the same person as I was then. God has worked in my heart and mind to dispel the crippling effect of fear.
God was there – He knew what I desired and what path he had planned for me. I didn’t see it at the time BUT
He brought Clarence into my life when I desperately needed someone to hold my hand even if it was from 1400 miles away. Clarence would listen to my crying and complaining and then tell me “It will be ok” and I believed him. He would call and tell me “I saw a rainbow today and it was for you” and it would comfort me. I began to remember the promises of God and saw a glimmer of hope. Clarence was the lifeline that God sent. (Of course I still have questions about the packaging) God sent me the desires of my heart. Someone to love me as I am. I can reflect back now and realize my greatest fear all along was that no one would love me once Ricky was gone. That I would be alone. Unreasonable and irrational maybe but very real to me.
God’s timing was right too. He had postponed the end until both of my boys had finished their schooling and had good jobs on their way to successful careers. Rick was 23 and Stuart had just turned 20. My granddaughter was 5. They didn’t need me on a day to day basis. I could grieve in my own time frame.
The attorney I worked for was willing to give me time off as needed to meet my responsibilities to Ricky. He gave me an Explorer to drive with a gas credit card. He understood that I would need time to handle all the emotional turmoil I had. He also helped me navigate all the legal issues. My previous job at the Junior High school would not have offered any of those perks.
God provided his word to remind me of his care and guidance. Reading Psalm 23 for Ricky at the end touched me. Surely Goodness and Mercy would follow me all my days. You do realize that Goodness and Mercy are the names of Guardian Angels.
I was still struggling with the sky falling in on me. Fear is like that. It parallelizes and cripples a person. It blocks out hope, peace, and comfort. Fear, especially unreasonable, irrational fear, doesn’t leave room for anything else. Your world becomes dark and scary. Fear influences everything you think and do. I know – like I said been there done that.
But God remains constant in his love and forgiveness. It took me a long time to come to a place in my life that I could let go of most of my fears. I have to constantly remind myself that the devil is the author of fear. God doesn’t give us fear – he offers hope, comfort, peace and Love. As Paul reminds us Love casts out fear. One of the most often repeated messages of the Old and New Testaments is DO NOT BE AFRAID. Many passages talk about fearing the Lord but that is a translation of awe and reverence for God not being terrified. God wants to be in relationship with us.
Reflect on our reading for today from Psalm 46 – God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in trouble. The Lord of Hosts is with us. Be still and know that I am God.
We all will face difficult times – God never promised that. He promised to be with us at all times good or bad. But we have to recognize that and look for him and invite him into the midst of our fears so he can cast them out.
That I am standing in front of you this morning is by the grace of God. Left to myself I would not have survived the sky falling and my world collapsing. God sent me the desire of my heart in Clarence. To be honest not the way I pictured him but I couldn’t ask for a better companion and love of my life. God has given me the opportunity to share what I have learned about his love and forgiveness. He has instilled in me the desire to share what He has done for me. He has given me opportunities that I never dreamed of. He has helped me conquer all kinds of fears – public speaking, mountains, curves, bridges, heights, strangers, making a fool of myself, etc. Going through the valley of the shadow of death with Ricky strengthen me as nothing else could. I am still exploring what God’s full plan is for me. I know he is not done with me.
Oh, and the plan for Ricky – he is alive and well in heaven with his Savior. God sent 2 angels to grasp his hands and escort him to his eternal home. I saw them.