Hope Shows the Way
By Jana Fraley
I woke up with heaviness in my heart. I dreaded getting out of bed, I dreaded getting dressed and getting five-year-old Hope ready, I dreaded making the 20 minute drive to my in-law’s home and, most of all, I dreaded the thought of having to take care of Betty all day. I have been helping out my husband’s family by caring for his disabled mother for four months now.
Mark and I had moved back home to be closer to his family after his mother’s health had gone downhill because of complications from her diabetes. Moving to the small town that Mark had grown up in and raising Hope near his family was something that we had talked and prayed about for years. Four months earlier it had become a reality. When I first agreed to take over the care of Betty, I had visions of growing closer to the woman who had lovingly raised my husband; but real life was much different than my idealistic fantasies.
Betty was young, only 54 years old, and she was now dependent on others for everything. She had gone from an independent, vibrant women to a bitter and demanding one, who took the brunt of her frustrations out on me. Now my visions included snuggling down deeper into the warm, comfy bed and staying there for the day, or maybe screaming and having a good old-fashioned fit, telling everyone that I’d had enough. Unfortunately the only option that our family had at this point was for me to continue as the primary caregiver. Mark and his father, John, were struggling to make a living on the family ranch and Mark’s sister and her family had just moved across the country. So the burden fell on me, and I was beginning to struggle with bitterness.
As Hope and I approached the old ranch house where Betty would be waiting, I said a quick prayer and thought about my early morning devotion time. I had read in Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Oh, how I needed those fruits of the Spirit, I thought to myself. I knew that I didn’t have any of those attitudes when it came to caring for my mother-in-law. I prayed that God would equip me for taking care of Betty by giving me one of those fruits, just one, that’s all I was asking for in order to get through the day without losing control.
Hope ran past me into the house calling out, “Grandma Betty, we’re here. I brought you a picture!” The little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl jumped into her grandmother’s lap and kissed her cheek. “I missed you since yesterday Grandma, what’s new?” she asked.
“Nothing’s new. I’ve sat here for hours waiting for your mother to get here so I can have some breakfast,” Betty said with a scowl.
“You haven’t sat here for hours, Betty; it’s only been 20 minutes since John left.” I took a deep breath and thought, “Just one fruit, God, that’s all I need!”
Hope and I worked together to get Betty fed and then took her into the bathroom to get her washed up for the day. This was the part that I dreaded the most, especially when it comes time to wash her feet. Betty was missing most of her toes because of the diabetes and I had to carefully check for sores each morning as I washed her feet. It was a chore I detested. I had just started when the phone rang. I went to answer it, leaving Hope in the bathroom with her grandmother. After I hung up the phone I took another deep breath, offered up a quick prayer and headed back to the bathroom.
I stopped when I saw that Hope had taken over gently washing Betty’s mangled feet. “Grandma Betty, did you know that when you go to heaven, you’ll get new feet? And you’ll be able to walk and dance and play with me? God’s gonna give you a new body and it’s gonna be better than the one you’ve got now. I can’t wait for you to dance Grandma.” I noticed the tears streaming down my face at the same moment that I noticed the tears falling down my mother-in-law’s weathered cheeks. Hope continued talking as she used the washcloth on the other foot, “Until we’re in heaven Grandma, maybe I could just dance for you and you could sing. It’d be good practice ‘till we get there!”
I realized then that my daughter loved Betty in a way that I myself found impossible to do. Hope wasn’t living out just one fruit of the Spirit, she was showing all of them. All of a sudden I realized that I wanted to love Betty in a way that wasn’t humanly possible and I wanted to start that very minute. I began to pray immediately as I took over washing Betty’s feet, thanking God for sending me a very wise child, and asking him to continue using Hope to show me the way.