“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:12-14 NLT
I was 19 years old when I started taking care of my grandmother. I was a sophomore in college, had just started working at Bloomingdale’s department store and had finally moved onto campus at La Salle University. I was finally feeling like an adult, ready to live the much anticipated, “college life.” The last thing I needed was responsibilities, especially those for another person. All I wanted to do was live free and vicariously, explore life (like my school’s motto) and take care of myself shopping, spending time with friends, traveling and partying. So when my grandmother had fallen sick and now needed my care; although I loved her and didn’t want anything to happen to her, I must say dear friend, I wasn’t necessarily “thrilled” to jump into MOM mode.
When you choose to become a mom, it’s your job to take care of your kid(s). When you’re the kid, at least for me, you never think that the day will come where you’d be the one taking care of her. Especially not at the tender age of 19. I was still just a baby myself. How could I now be responsible for caring for another human being? How could God do this to me? I’m not ready for this, I thought to myself. Nevertheless, I did it anyways. Scared and nervous, I took on the burden of taking care of my grandmother.
Now, I must tell you dear friend, that my grandmother had two sons who (of course) were much older than I. They were my biological father and uncle. Both well over 40, both strong able bodied men who even lived with her at the time. Yet, instead of choosing a life worth living, they chose a life of drinking, snorting cocaine and shooting heroin into their bodies. So it all fell on me. I had to step up and be the responsible one. I hadn’t realized it at the time but since they were living with her, or rather leaching from her, caring for her, her estate and affairs meant I had also taken on the responsibility of caring for them too. So there I was, a 19 year old college student, with a minimum wage job now caring for my elderly grandmother, my father and my uncle.
At the time, I thought it would be a temporary situation. I thought I’d step in and help out, doing my part until she got back on her feet. However, after her hospital stint, things were never quite the same. She went from being this super-strong-wonder-woman to a frail, worn-out, old lady. The things she once could do with ease, she had a hard time taking care of. Though she was still a sharp shooter of the mouth and spirit, her body just wasn’t the same anymore. It became a slow decline for her health after that. She still oversaw things, but the majority all fell on me to handle. I was now Power of Attorney!
Prior to her health scare and decline, my grandmother not only cared for me and her two drug addicted, abusive sons, but she also cared for my disabled grandfather who was bed / wheel chair bound. Though thankfully due to his nurses and own sons (not by my grandmother), I didn’t have that burden to bear. You’d think that having been raised in the same home, regardless if born by different parents, that all of my grandparents combined children would come together as a family and help care for the both of them; but that wasn’t the case. No, unfortunately the adults could not see past their anger and hatred for my grandfather never marrying their mother instead of my grandmother, that they did not care to get it right. So even though it had been well over 40 years of my grandparents marriage, time wouldn’t heal those wounds and my grandfather’s now adult children treated my grandmother like a stranger / very distant relative.
Regardless of their pettiness, I’m happy to say I still treated both my grandparents as equals. When I would bring food for my grandmother, I’d bring the same for my grandfather. Knowing I already had enough on my plate with caring for her alone, my grandfather was kind and never required much from me besides the usual check in conversation telling him about my day, school and if I was keeping my grades up.
Getting back to my grandmother and the story at hand, I thought my stepping in to “play mom” would only suffice for a little while. Maybe a few short weeks or months and she’d be back to her usual strong, tough-cookie-self and I’d be back to enjoying the good ole’ college life. Boy, was I wrong. As the months and years went by, my grandmother became weaker and weaker and the baggage for me became heavier and heavier. For 8 long years I took care of my grandmother and endured the heavy burden of trying to manage and maintain the finances as my drug addicted father and uncle swindled and bled the well dry. I couldn’t understand not only why such a heavy burden had been placed upon me, but why wasn’t all my hard work paying off. Why wasn’t she getting better? Why wouldn’t the doctors, courts and other family members help me out?
It wasn’t until after she had passed away that I had finally learned the truth of why my grandmother became frail and weak. It wasn’t until her body was officially broken and her spirit had passed along to glory that I would finally learn of the horrors she endured everyday. But that story, my friend, is for another day.
I’m writing today to tell you that I know what it’s like to have heavy burdens. I too felt the frustrations of being young and having not asked for the many “problems” I had, yet still being handed them nonetheless. I was angry, distraught, lost, confused, stressed and stretched beyond belief, didn’t know how I would make it to tomorrow, and I couldn’t see a way out. I was young and inexperienced. I used to think about how I didn’t have any children of my own to care for yet here I am “playing mom” and caring for these “adult children.” Sometimes, I would pray to God to take it away. Other times, I wouldn’t bother turning to him because I figured he either already knew what I was dealing with and just didn’t care or that he knew what I was dealing with but was just too busy to bother stepping in to help. So, I would go to adult care services, the courts, the police and home health services seeking help and assistance, telling my story to anyone who would listen hoping they’d lend a helping hand and lighten my load.
Please don’t misinterpret, dear friend. I loved and adored my grandmother dearly; so much so that if ever placed in a life or death situation, I’d give my own life for hers. As the years moved on, it was just becoming too much for me to bear, or so I thought, at the time. Through all my seeking and searching for help, I never got any. No matter how many lawyers I spoke with, how many officers I called to the house, how many times I sat in the doctors offices and courts begging for them to help my case, no one cared enough to lift a finger, let alone to offer a helping hand. The most “assistance” I got were a few nurses / doctors who would come by every now and again for a visit to ensure she took her meds and was “feeling okay.”
Through the years, after graduating college and working odd freelance jobs in fashion, television and film, while even living in New York City, I still would persevere daily driving every day / every other day, back and forth to Philadelphia, still caring and tending to my grandmother’s every needs. Yup, for 8 years I couldn’t believe this was my life. One day, finally, a break had come. It’s tragically sad how it came, but it came nonetheless the way I believe God had intended it to.
At 5 o’ clock on the morning of July 27, 2014, I had a mental and emotional breakdown and cried on my bathroom floor (by this time I had moved back to the Philadelphia area). I cried and prayed alone begging, pleading for God to come. My prayer was, “God please allow my grandmother to see the light. Please allow me the strength I need to get through this. I’m at my wits end and don’t know what else to do. I cannot continue on this path anymore. I’m losing my strength, the Devil is winning and I need your help! I just want her to see how her life could be if she just let me save her from her sons. She doesn’t need to live like this anymore. She’s a good woman who deserves better than this. I don’t understand why she won’t let me save her from her sons and why nobody is helping me. Jesus, if your will isn’t for me to save her, then please take her away from this hell on earth that she doesn’t deserve and let her live in a better, more peaceful place. I can’t do it alone anymore. Please help me!”
My grandmother passed away on August 24, 2014.
Although she’s gone now, with the good times, I still can recall those long days and nights of weary, stress, headache, heartache, feelings of weakness, anxiety, depression worrying about how I would continue on fighting the fight and carrying the burdens placed upon my shoulders. Through it all, the one thing I learned was that I am strong!
I made it! It took a long time, but I made it! I had to endure a lot, but I made it! In the end, I had to lose it all, but I STILL MADE IT! And I didn’t make it on my own. I made it because my Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Father, held me up. When I was down and I felt like throwing in the towel, it was God who blocked the enemies attempts and continued to pull me along. The times when I felt like I couldn’t even pray about the problems because they were just too deep, to heavy to even lay at His feet; He still carried me along the way.
I tell you my story, dear friend, in hopes that it may give you the strength you need to keep pressing on. You may be going through a lot and you may feel that there’s no way out, but I come as a witness of God’s strength and power — I know He can do all things! I’ve seen him do it. He delivered me from the hands of my enemies. He picked me up when I was falling. He carried me along the way and gave me the strength I needed to continue caring for my grandmother, father and uncle all those years. Even though she’s gone, I still have to endure a little while longer. Although I no longer care for her sons, I still have her estate and final affairs to tidy up. I’ve learned that things take time. My problems didn’t miraculously go away because she passed away and the burdens still seemed heavy once topped with the stages of grief. But I’ve learned that just as He gave me the strength and courage I needed to endure all that I’ve been through, He will continue to guide me and pull me along the way. I know He can do the same for you.
All you have to do is call on His Name. Lay you burdens at his feet just like I did. Place those heavy bags of life onto His arms, rest your head on His shoulders and believe deep down inside that He will make a way. The Bible says in John 15:3-5 NLT, “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
Lastly, my prayer today is for courage. Not just for you, but for me too. Dear God, I pray that my friend who reads this, has enough courage to endure the battle ahead. Though the road may be weary and the bags may seem heavy, I pray that you give us the strength needed to survive the journey. Life isn’t always easy and the picture isn’t always painted perfectly, but I thank you for seeing us through to the end. May your name be kept holy and may your will be done. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!
Go now my friend and be at peace knowing that the blessings of the Lord are upon you and that you have a friend in me praying for your salvation every day.
Sincerely and with lots of love,