Cindy’s Story of Faith and Hope

Written by, Glenn Oliver

Cindy was diagnosed with lupus in 1983 at the age of sixteen. She had many flare-ups during her high school years, which meant she spent a lot of time in the hospital recovering. At age twenty she met me (Glenn) and eleven months later we were married. I knew of Cindy’s medical condition before we were married and knew I could handle it. My mother had severe MS (multiple sclerosis) while I was growing up. My siblings and I did most of the cooking and cleaning, so I grew up quickly and understood about health problems.

Six months after marriage Cindy had a grand mal seizure and the lupus had shut down her kidneys. She was on dialysis for eight months.The kidney doctors were very negative about the kidneys ever working again on their own. Our faith helped us feel positive and Cindy’s rheumatologist, Dr. Daniel Clegg, told us when the lupus shuts down the kidneys many times the kidneys will start functioning again. We felt strongly this would happen. After seven long months we saw signs through Cindy’s improved blood work that the kidneys were returning, but the kidney doctors told us this meant nothing. They told us to get used to dialysis because she was going to be on it for a long time. About a month later Cindy was off dialysis. Even then the doctors warned she’d be right back on it. We understood they didn’t see this happen too often so it was hard for them to realize Cindy was an exception to the rule.  We knew she was coming off dialysis for good.

Oliver FamilyWe also learned that when the lupus shuts down the kidneys the lupus goes dormant. During this time we talked about having children. Because pregnancy would be hard on Cindy’s kidneys and they would have a good chance of failing again, we decided to adopt. We have been blessed with three beautiful children. Zach is seventeen, Kade is fifteen and Olivia is nine years old now.

After sixteen years of the kidneys working at partial function, the doctors determined Cindy needed a kidney transplant.The blood work indicated the kidney function was deteriorating and the medicine to help the kidney function may hurt her health. Cindy’s brother Troy volunteered to donate his kidney and was a match. April 25, 2006, Cindy had the transplant and the operation was a success. Both Cindy’s and Troy’s kidneys are doing great after eight years. We are so grateful for Troy’s willingness to give his kidney to Cindy.

On September 3, 2006, about four months after the kidney transplant, Cindy became very ill. She was having headaches for a few days and started to be confused so we took her to Emergency. The doctors thought that Cindy had Meningitis, but the test came back negative. They tested for West Nile Virus and it came back negative. She couldn’t recognize certain things, so they admitted her into the hospital. She had a fever they couldn’t reduce. Cindy had another seizure and went into a coma. They began giving Cindy antibiotics first, but since she wasn’t improving they gave her high doses of steroids. The doctors weren’t sure she was going to make it. After a priesthood blessing by Cindy’s Bishop, she took a turn for the better.

Cindy woke up from her coma after a week of steroids. She communicated with her eyebrows. She could lift them when we asked her yes and no questions. A month later they tested her again for West Nile Virus, and this time it came back positive. The doctors realized the immune suppressant drugs prescribed for her kidney were masking the prior test result, a learning experience for the doctors.

During the time Cindy was in ICU, I was still trying to work. It became very difficult so I decided to take a leave of absence for a few months while we determined what was going to happen to Cindy. Her family and I were constantly with her at the hospital. We also had 3 children at home that needed care. Olivia was only 1 ½ years old. The family split up the time and made sure everything and everyone was taken care of. We made a schedule of who was at the hospital and who was taking care of the children. Cindy’s sister, Michelle, helped a lot, as well as my sister, Colleen, and several friends helped as well. We truly appreciated our family during this time of need.

We thought at the beginning Cindy would take only a few weeks to get better. But when she woke up from the coma and the tubes were finally taken out, we realized she couldn’t speak or walk.  The West Nile Virus went to her brain and affected all of her motor skills.  She had to relearn to speak, walk, write and eat. Cindy was in the University of Utah Hospital for two months and went to Physical Therapy Rehab there for another few weeks. She couldn’t do the rehab they wanted because she was too weak. She was then transferred to South Davis Community Hospital, where she got strong enough to begin her therapy. Cindy met Louise Jarvis, her PT (physical therapist), who was a life saver. She also had Jen Bangs for OT (occupational therapy) and they became good friends. Jen moved out of state, but they still stay in touch through Facebook.

Cindy was at South Davis Community Hospital for six weeks making her total hospital stay over four months. She continued her therapy as an outpatient until Louise retired, and now Louise comes to our home to help Cindy. We feel very blessed to have wonderful therapist who have helped Cindy progress.

When Cindy came home from the hospital she was in a wheelchair, couldn’t walk or talk well and we helped her with her meals. We noticed friends that were not used to medical problems stayed away. This was hard on Cindy because she lost a few of her good friends.

Louise is still working with Cindy to this day, after eight years of therapy. Cindy’s speech, writing, eating and all the things you do daily have slowly come back. She went from a wheelchair to a walker and then to a cane. Now she can walk without a cane around the house, but has a problem with her balance. She uses the walls and railing to steady herself. She does fall once in a while, but she gets up and brushes it off.  When we go out she holds on to me. She is amazing. Even the doctors are impressed with her abilities. The kidney has been working great through all of this and we feel the transplant saved her life.

This has been a life changing experience for both of us. I quit my job and work at home so that I can be with Cindy and the children now. Cindy cannot drive and needs help with things that have to do with balance—like trying to carry things as she walks. She still has hope she will walk one day completely on her own. She can do most everything else.

I love Cindy so much. I would never leave her. My father stayed with my mother when she was ill. He was a great example of sticking through hard times. I have seen men leave their spouses because of their health problems. I know that some men could not handle everything we have gone through which is sad. Those men missed out on something that needs to be learned in life. It’s not all about yourself—it’s about serving others. Cindy has gone through a lot in her lifetime. She is strong even though sometimes she feels she is not. She is a fighter and that is why she has done so well with all that has happened to her. I feel blessed I am healthy enough to be a helpmate for Cindy in all we need to do as a family. Life is good now.

Thank you Glenn for sharing your story. What a great example you are to me! I appreciate how positive and strong you and Cindy are.

Strength in Numbers

Being StrongThe Winter Olympic Games are upon us and it is evident there are countless hours in many years of training for the athletes to compete. The hosting city and country plan and prepare four years and it’s a proud time for them as they show off their beauty and hospitality to the world. It’s sensational to watch it all unfold. Various athletes from all over the world coming together in Sochi to do their very best, showing their strengths and abilities.

It’s obvious there are many people behind the athletes as they prepare for the games. Besides family and friends that encourage and help them, there are coaches, technique specialists, apparel consultants, etc. All have the same goal and vision for the athlete to succeed. They’re amazing to watch and usually you’re only seeing one person competing, but in reality there’s a team of people standing behind the one athlete you’re watching. All making their success possible.

We all need others to succeed in our endeavors. No one makes it alone. It’s wonderful to have family and friends help and encourage us. They hear and see us with their hearts. It’s also beneficial to build relationships with others who share your goals, stress and struggles. They hear and see us with their experience. A meaningful and comforting way to boost one another. This is my goal with Uniting Caregivers. Together we can learn and improve our abilities. Sharing our stories and how we cope encourages and gives us strength.

Support groups are formed for most anything you are dealing with; addiction, brain injury, cancer, divorce, epilepsy, mental health, stroke and the list goes on. Mark and I have benefited from the Brain Injury Support Groups and the Epilepsy Support Group. We have learned much and it’s comforting to be with people who know and share our experience.

Tomorrow night a friend and caregiver of a brain injury survivor, Laura Nordfelt, is starting a new Caregiver Support Group in Murray, Utah. The meeting is in conjunction with the Brain Injury and Stroke Survivor Meeting from 7-8 pm. It will be held at the Intermountain Medical Center, 5121 South Cottonwood Street, Building 6, Classroom 8.  The caregivers and survivors will meet first together and then split into two separate groups. The facilitator, Lynn Anderson, who has a MS in Social Work will meet with the caregiver’s group.

Support groups are a wonderful way to share and improve your experience. I encourage all to Goggle “support groups” in your area to find the help and support you might need. There is strength in numbers!

Elijah’s Story

Written by, Silvia Caswell

Elijah's Family

My husband, Elijah, had a slip and fall on icy steps while working outside the week before Thanksgiving, 2013. He hit his head on the stairs and we think he was unconscious for about 10 minutes.

When he came to, he was completely disoriented and his speech was slurred. No one actually saw Elijah fall because he was outside by himself. He was able to call a co-worker who found a work colleague who lives in the area to come and pick him up. He didn’t know where he was so he looked on his iPad for the location. He then could tell the work colleague where to find him. He didn’t remember what car he drove or where he had parked. He was immediately taken to the Emergency Room to be evaluated. He had a severe headache and the CT scan showed no bleeding. He was released from the hospital with a simple concussion and we were told that he would be better in less than three weeks.

Elijah is 28 years old, so he’s in pretty good health otherwise. At home, my kids and I began noticing that he had some issues with confusion, short term memory recall, inability to read out loud, and his balance was severely off. His headache was unbearable and we returned to a bigger trauma center ER to have his pain managed because it was out of control. Again they checked him with a CT scan, but no bleeding. We were sent home and referred to a concussion specialist at the same hospital.

After two hours of neurological testing, the concussion specialist put Elijah in the “severe concussion” category. Again they believed that he would get better soon and that we would be back to normal quickly.

A few weeks after the accident, and with each visit to the doctor, we began finding more problems. Memory recall was pretty poor, disoriented to time and place, headaches out of control, and he began falling. Our doctor then decided it was best to keep him supervised at all times because he had driven to a nearby fast food restaurant and left the children at home by themselves (ages 5 and 3), and had no recollection of ever getting there, ordering, and driving home. Now I hide his wallet and car keys so it won’t happen again!

Long story short… we’re two months out and he has fallen down our stairs at home three times. The last time, a few weeks ago, left him unconscious. The doctor believes he re-concussed himself. Also, he developed right side weakness, and his symptoms continued to be severe. So far he is seeing a neuro-psychologist, two neurologists, one cervical physical therapist (to help with the limited mobility he developed from being in so much pain constantly), and a balance physical therapist. He was then moved out of the concussion spectrum and into the “mild to moderate traumatic brain injury” category.

All family members have been highly concerned about Elijah and it has pretty much turned my world upside down. We have 3-5 medical appointments every week. I had to quit my job at the hospital (ironically enough I worked in Shock Trauma ICU, where we get these types of patients constantly), to be able to stay home with him. We have three kids (ages 5, 3, and 11 months), and they know that sometimes daddy’s brain plays tricks on him (that’s how we deal with his confusion), and that he needs lots of rest in a dark, quiet environment so his brain can get a chance to get better.

We have friends and family that help us tremendously by watching our kids when we need to go to our appointments. It has been a huge blessing. It is overwhelming to go to the hospital that many times per week and sometimes I wonder if I have the strength to keep up with everything. I am a huge exercise fanatic and exercise 5-6 days/week, as well as eat healthy. Most of the time I get up very early to do it because I need the energy to keep up with our small kids, tending to my husband and taking him to various places (obviously, he cannot drive).

I am currently attending college and am preparing for taking the MCAT this summer and applying to medical school later in the summer. It’s definitely thrown everything off track, but I have learned to be disciplined and schedule everything in, even workouts. I feel that if I do something to help myself be a better person every day, then I can take care of everyone else in a better way. I have had a past history with severe depression so I always need to keep myself in check.

Elijah & boys

The results from Elijah’s last trip to the  neurologist where further neurological testing was done, show we are looking at another 3-6 month recovery. His physical exam did not correlate with his MRI, so we have an MRI/MRA scheduled in a couple of weeks. He will go under general anesthesia for the procedure because he does not tolerate the MRI machine noise at all (we found out the hard way). The doctor thinks he may have a microscopic bleeding that was not caught in the CT scan or a regular MRI.

I appreciate your blog and I am grateful for finding other caregivers who are going through a similar situation. Thank you!!!

-Silvia

Thank you Silvia for writing Elijah’s story. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.

Find Joy in the Journey

BIAU Conference

Photo from Brian Injury Alliance of Utah Newsletter
BIAU Conference October 24, 2013

Dad, Mom, Ruth & Don at the Award Luncheon

Dad, Mom, Ruth & Don at the Award Luncheon

Mark with Mark Fox who presented the award. Also a therapist who worked with Mark twenty-two years ago.

Mark Fox who presented the award. Also a therapist who worked with Mark 22 yrs ago.

Nurse Susan who took care of Mark at Western Rehab for 8 months, twenty-two years ago.

Nurse Susan who took care of Mark at Western Rehab 22 yrs ago for eight months.

Every once in a while something really nice happens — when it does, write about it in detail. When you are feeling down, read it. Hopefully you will have pictures to look at too. Remember the joy you felt and your spirits will be lifted.

There was a lot of worry with Mark’s health this past year. But there was joy as well. The highlight for 2013 — The Annual Brain Injury Alliance of Utah Family and Professional Conference, where I received the “Family Award”. I was so surprised! Mark, my parents, siblings and children were all there in attendance, which magnified the honor. It was a day I will always cherish.

The next day, our daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Eldin hosted a surprise dinner award celebration for us. All family members, including nieces and nephews along with some exceptional friends who come and help Mark with exercises were there. Wow—two very huge surprises in two days! I did not plan or have any knowledge of these two big events. What does it mean? Surprises are the best!


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When I think about what brought me the most pleasure in 2013, I realize it was time spent with family and friends, and special events which were made memorable because of them.

Our daughter, Katie made a memory book filled with pictures of these two events, along with the nomination and award letter that was read at the time I received the award. She gave us the memory book for Christmas. It is a treasured gift and I will look at it often— especially when I’m feeling blue.

I would love to read what brings joy in your journey. Please feel free to write in the comment box.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2014!

https://unitingcaregivers.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/share-a-sweet-recognition/

Time for Reflections

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Christopher, Jen, Katie, Eldin
Mark and Barbara – 2013

The hustle and bustle of Christmas is over. Now my thoughts turn to the New Year. Eager for new beginning, I’m filled with hope for a successful year. My goals are similar to last year’s with renewed faith that I can do better.

As I reflect on this past year, I did not reach my goals—I’m still not punctual; I’m still over weight, and I did not write the book I’d planned. It’s remarkable I don’t give up on these goals. I must truly believe that I have not failed until I quit trying. Life is interesting and rarely goes the way I planned. However, I do believe setting goals, is the strongest force for self-motivation.

Although I did not reach my goals, there were small victories, pointing me in the right direction. I did take a writing class to improve my writing skills, January through May and I did get two chapters written and edited. I also joined the American Night Writers Association, and I’m a part of the Salt Lake Storytellers Chapter. I have learned a lot about writing and publishing, and I realize I have a lot more to learn. I have put my book goal aside for now to concentrate on my blog and writing technique. Some time in the future, I plan to use my blog articles to help me complete my book.

Another victory, not on my goal list, was keeping up with my job as an account manager for Earthwork Property Management. I have deadlines for specific tasks for my job, and do not think of them as goals, but I’m relieved every time I meet the deadline—especially this past summer, while Mark was hospitalized twice for blood clots. He also became very weak and was released from the hospital only to be admitted to a rehab center for three weeks in August. This consumed much time and energy. Most of the hours in a day were spent by Mark’s side, but I was still able to achieve the important tasks of work. As I look back on those months, I should have felt more pleased at the accomplishment of meeting each deadline instead of just relieved.

The only known cause for these blood clots is Mark’s inability to be active. He did receive eight weeks of home health therapy after returning from the rehab center but now, it’s all up to me to make sure he gets the exercise he needs. To prevent more blood clots, he takes an anticoagulant. This affects his diet which requires better meal planning on my part. More exercise and planned meals is an important goal for 2014 improved health.

Goals take work and constant planning. When life keeps messing up plans, it’s discouraging and easy to think, why make plans? I don’t plan for seizures, illness, accidents or hardships, but they still happen.

I agree with Harvey Mackay, who said, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” I don’t want to waste time on regret, or become discouraged over the major goal not accomplished. Instead I should recognize the minor victories. This new year, I plan to break down my goals into obtainable pieces and allow myself to feel joy for every small success.

While striving to reach goals I want to remember—faith, family and friends come first. It may take longer to accomplish the goal when putting them first, but they are most important and make all goals worthwhile.

I’m so grateful for new beginnings which encourage me to recommit to another year of self-improvement. 

A Happy Life

Happy LifeA few years ago I stopped by my Grandma and Grandpa Rose’s grave at Christmas time to leave a flower. Before I approached their grave, I noticed the sweetest little Christmas tree I have ever seen, decorated with homemade ornaments. I stopped to admire it and realized it sat at the head of my cousin’s grave. Karen Rose was born December 20, 1952 and died three days later. She was buried on Christmas Eve.

I knew that my Aunt and Uncle had a tradition of taking their other children on or around her birthdate to the grave to decorate a tree, but this was the first time I had actually seen it. I was so touched that after all these years my aunt and uncle now in their late eighties, still carried on this tradition with their family.

I realized the death of any child would be heartbreaking, and loosing a baby at Christmas time must add to the distress. With tears in my eyes, I understood for the first time our Rose family Christmas party was held on the day she past away. How hard that must of been for them—but they never seemed sad.

For sixty-one years, they’ve celebrated her birth with a Christmas tree and focused on their knowledge that they would someday reunite with Karen. What a wonderful gift our Heavenly Father has given us through Jesus Christ—who made it possible for us to be reunited with family, not just at Christmas time, but throughout all eternity.

Thank you Uncle Wayne and Aunt Joy for your example of making a happy life despite heartache and disappointment.

Traditions Make a Family Close

1972 Rose Family Christmas Party. Grandpa's last with us. Top right corner.

1972 Rose Family Christmas Party.
Grandpa’s last with us – top right corner. I’m on the third row in the purple shirt. My oldest brother Mick and cousin Larry are missing. They were on LDS missions.

When I reflect on my childhood, it is the holiday traditions—not the gifts—which are memorable. At Christmas time we met at Grandma and Grandpa Rose’s house for a family party on Christmas Eve. During the gathering time we ate Grandma’s fudge and banana slush. When all arrived, the party began with one of my grandparent’s children and their family taking a turn presenting the Christmas story. Afterwards, all the children took a turn sharing a talent—singing, playing an instrument, reading a poem or telling a story or joke. All eighteen grandchildren were expected to participate. Some paired up and did things together. Then we sang Christmas carols and Santa and Mrs. Clause came to pass out their gifts. Grandma and Grandpa went to a lot of work to make it such an enjoyable evening.

1972 Grandma

1972 Grandma Rose passing out gifts

As the Rose family grew we switched the party to December 23rd to accommodate a larger family’s schedule.

The best gift they gave us was a close family and wonderful memories with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

2013 Mom & Dad

2013 My parents with Santa, carrying on the tradition. Merry Christmas!

Now that my grandparents are gone — my parents, both in their eighties, carry on this same tradition with their children, grand- and great-grandchildren now totaling seventy-three people. Too large for a family picture. They go to the same work as my grandparents did to keep our family close and build wonderful memories for the new generation.

Home for the Holidays

Christmas can be a magical time, when wishes are granted. This was definitely the case for Mark and I twenty-two years ago. After eight months of hospitalization, I was finally able to bring Mark home —  just in time for Christmas. He was far from better and still needed extensive therapy and care, so I worked on establishing a “day- patient” schedule where he’d be there all day for therapy and I’d be able to care for him every night at home. At the time he wasn’t able to feed himself or take care of any personal needs. Mark’s doctor, Joseph Vickroy, and the rehab team of speech, occupational and physical therapist, requested that we spend several nights in an apartment-like room located in the center unit where Mark had been for six months. They felt it was important for me to understand the responsibility of caring for Mark before they released him.

I thought the suggestion was trivial since I had spent every day with him and fed him most meals anyway; however, I understood their concern and agreed to do it. I spent several nights there and took complete responsibility for him. Our two children also spent a few nights there to understand what life would be like to have Dad at home.

Once we realized Mark was going to be wheelchair dependent, we knew some home modifications would be necessary. In October 1991, we started building a large room which would become our bedroom with a wheelchair accessible bathroom off the back of the house. Fortunately, my dad and brothers work in construction and they were willing to do the job. My oldest brother, Mick, designed the addition with a ramp for the new back entrance. If you’re blessed to have a father who is an excavating contractor, “you can’t add a room without a basement.”

Top: Left - Don breaking ground. Right - Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings. Middle: Left- Dad. Right - Steve and Mick pouring the footings. Bottom: Left - Steve and Dad. Right - Mick, Steve and Dad pouring the cement floor.

Top:        Left – Don breaking ground.          Right – Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings.
Middle:  Left – Dad trying to escape.            Right – Steve and Mick pouring footings.
Bottom: Left – Steve and Dad.                        Right – Mick, Steve and Dad laying cement floor.

Because they were building this addition on their own time after work, it was not completed in December. Despite the unfinished construction we wanted Mark home for Christmas. Mark’s care was physically difficult until the new bedroom and bathroom were finished, but well-worth all the effort to have him finally home. Our regular bedroom wasn’t big enough for all the equipment now needed for Mark. Our queen-sized bed had to be replaced with a single-sized hospital bed. At night, after I transferred him into bed, I would raise it as high as it could go and place my air mattress on the floor in the only space available — which meant my legs were tucked under the bed. Worried that Mark might forget I was there and use the controls to lower it, I would unplug the bed every night.

This sleeping arrangement made for many jokes. I often said as I unplugged the bed, “You are now out of control.” He teasingly replied, “But, I’ve got the top.”

Our living quarters were cramped and hard with the construction going on, but it was so worthwhile. My heart is filled with gratitude for my dad and brothers who made our home so much better for our new circumstances. Our trials were lightened by their skills and hard work.

Top: Left Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition Bottom: Left - Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down. Right - Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

Top: Left and Right – Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition.
Bottom: Left – Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down.                                   Bottom: Right – Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

After nine months of living in a hospital — it truly was the merriest of Christmas’s to have Mark finally home.

Finished room in March. Christopher, Mark and Katie.

Finished room in March 1992. Christopher, Mark and Katie. Mark in our new queen-size adjustable bed.

Family Makes Any Place Home

We wanted a baby for three years before our first child, Christopher, was born. Three years doesn’t seem long now, but at the time, it was forever. I was so thrilled and excited to become a mother, I didn’t dare complain about the sickness or discomfort it caused. I couldn’t understand how any woman could complain. It’s a miracle and privilege to be a vessel in bringing another person into the world.

Katie and Christopher, Easter 1986

Katie and Christopher, Easter 1986

I was astonished when seven months later I was pregnant again. Regretfully, I did complain about the sickness and discomfort the second go round. That doesn’t mean I love our second child, Katie Mae, any less. I’m truly grateful for her life and understand the wisdom in her quick arrival to our family. Honestly, she brought so much sunshine to us, and Christopher would have been lost without her.

It was difficult having two kids in diapers and it felt like they always needed help with everything at the same time. It was physically draining.

There was a few times I said to Mark, “These kids are driving me crazy. They talk to me at the same time and always need me.”

Mark jokingly replied, “What’s the problem? You have two ears, two hands and two feet.”

I smile about that now, but I’m sure I didn’t at the time.  It must be the reason I only have two kids. I ran out of ears, hands and feet.

He also tried to bring solace by telling me having two kids so close together had benefits. “We’ll get the toddler, or physically challenging years over, before entering the emotional challenging years of teens.”

It didn’t bring much comfort then, and was especially hard when they both left home within a year of each other. They were both anxious to start their independent life with college and work at the age of eighteen. All of the sudden we were empty nesters. It was hard when they came to us so close together, but even harder when they both moved out. Those eighteen years seemed to have past in a flash.

I wouldn’t trade the hardships. The children have brought so much joy to our lives and they have been great friends. They had each other to comfort when they were scared. They entertained each other, at home, vacation, and many months of nightly visits at the hospital. Sure they fought sometimes like siblings do, but they did chores together as well as played together, and most of the time they loved each other!

Christopher was eight years old and Katie had just turned seven a couple of weeks before the car accident. For two months I stayed at Mark’s bedside in a hospital that was sixty miles away from our home. The kids stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s, or an aunt and uncle’s house. I will be forever grateful for parents and siblings who lived close by and were willing and able to have the kids stay with them. I appreciate the nieces and nephews who included our kids in their activities. No matter whose house they stayed at they felt welcomed and at home.

I was living in a nightmare. There was family and friends that made it bearable, but my heart was broken with Mark’s condition and the separation from our kids. I wanted to be with them, but knew I couldn’t leave Mark’s bedside. He was in a coma and so critical that he could’ve left us at any time. I hated that I wasn’t there to take care of our kids, and depended on family to do so. At the same time, I was deeply grateful I had family who were willing and able to give them all the loving care they needed.

Children are resilient. I’m sure they felt some disadvantages, but they never complained and always seemed happy no matter whose house they were at. Years later, when Katie reflected on the experience, she said, “Chris was my home.”

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991 Just a few days after waking from his coma.

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991
Just a few days after waking from his coma.

Family truly does make a place a home. I learned that when Mark was stable enough to transport by ambulance to Western Rehab which was located close to our Sandy, Utah home. I took the kids to visit Mark every evening for six months. We’d have dinner with him and do homework. When we were all together, Western Rehab felt like home.

I appreciate all those who opened up their house and made our kids feel at home. That includes some very good neighbors and friends who watched after the kids for many months, while I was with Mark in rehab during the day.

It sounds strange, but I really miss those careworn years.  I don’t miss the stress, just the sweet kids — and now when they come to our house for a visit — it really feels like home!

A Season to Reach Out to Others

walk aloneRecently I read this post on facebook—”It’s important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now.”

It is a good reminder— there are people who need our prayers, support and friendship. Those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of all kinds. It is always good to know that someone cares and understands. Whenever possible, reach out to those who would benefit from an invitation to dinner, or some other activity.

Every family situation is different. Some family members and friends may not even enjoy a gathering and prefer alone time — but it is important they know they are remembered and included especially around the holidays. We have all felt to some degree rejection and have been offended at times. None of us are perfect and none of us have perfect families or friends. This is the season to forgive one another.

One of my most memorable Thanksgiving’s is when I missed our extended family dinner to serve with my son at the homeless shelter. It was Christopher’s idea and I went along with it because I wanted to be supportive of his noble idea. It turned out to be a very good experience for both of us.

Nobody is immune to hardships, loneliness and grief. Let’s reach out to those around us. As we do so, our own burdens will be lightened. As we focus on giving service and sharing with others, our love and blessings grow. When we appreciate what we do have, the things we don’t become less important.