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Why being my husband’s carer is a gift

Author: Ros Powell

Why being my husband’s carer is a gift

Ros Powell shares the pain and beauty that has come with her husband’s dementia.

In 2009 my beloved husband Freddie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Being a person who always tries to count my blessings my initial reaction was ‘Well, he’s not that bad, with God’s grace we can cope’.

But nothing prepared me, and our grown up children, for the days ahead when the person we love didn’t know who we were, his body was there but his mind wasn’t. It was only my love for him and my faith in God that kept me going.

There were days when the burden of caring for him went beyond my human strength, but I know that God “never crushes a bruised reed” (Isaiah 42:3) and I clung on to the fact that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”( Philippians 4:13).

From atheism to faith

For most of his life Freddie was a professing atheist, and then one morning in 2011, when the Alzheimer’s was just starting to manifest itself, he awoke and announced that he had had a dream.

He explained that in the dream he was taken back in time to the age of 11, and he could see his mother and father.  His mother, he remembered, was a good and holy lady who taught Sunday school, and his father was an atheist. He told me that as he glanced at them in the dream he made a decision, “I don’t want to be an atheist like my father any more, I want to be a Christian like my mother”.

After explaining the dream he turned to me and said “Can you help me?” (Is the Pope Catholic?!)

So I took him to Holy Mass that morning and introduced him to my parish priest. As a consequence after instruction he was received into the Catholic Church. All of our married life (over 33 years) I had prayed for his conversion and overnight my prayers were answered in an instant!

God’s timing was perfect for shortly after his conversion his sense of reasoning and his speech declined to the point where it was difficult for me to understand what he was trying to say… but here is the miracle - he prays in the gift of tongues fluently!

I stand in awe of God’s presence flowing through his smile and the peace that flows through him for all to see.

Healing for me

Over the last seven years the Lord has used Freddie’s illness to heal and soften me in so many ways.

I remember one day going to confession and pouring out to my priest the difficulty I had trying to be a good carer especially in dealing with the area of Freddie’s incontinence for it repulsed me. He told me a story about St Francis who had a similar problem with lepers.

St Francis prayed to the Lord and was able to then carry out the tasks that he found repugnant. Father prayed for me in the confessional and with the help of St Francis’ intercession my healing in that area began.

I found that the Lord gave me the gift of loving no matter what. Although the man I had fallen in love with and married - who had looked after me and the children - had gone, I was able to love the person he had become – a different way to love, but just as deep.

Mother Teresa in the book ‘No Greater Love’ wrote about bearing the fruit of mercy and the difficulty of bearing this fruit, she said  ... Our love and our joy in serving must be in proportion to the degree to which our task is repugnant”.

Surrendering the struggle

For each one of us “the trial of our faith is more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). The more I surrender all to the Lord in difficult situations and take one step at a time, the more I realise that mine and Freddie’s future is in God’s hands.

In June 2015 Freddie went into full-time care for he had reached the stage where he needed professional help. It was such a difficult emotional time for both of us and I had to surrender all to the Lord and totally rely and lean upon him.

He was with us every step of the way and we found a wonderful privately run home. Freddie is happy and content as his every need is catered for.

Lord help each of us to fully surrender all to you. Help us to be child-like living in the present moment, as it is not for us to know the future.

Our days are in the Lord’s hands and it is our challenge to trust him completely – he gives us only good gifts, and I can now see that caring for Freddie was God’s gift to me.

 

  • Ros Powell is a Christian Evangelist. You can find out more about her work at www.rospowell.com

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