By Sharon Clark, Cleveland
Submitted to the Ohio Department of Aging's Caregiver Story Project
I am a mother of two beautiful grown daughters who live in California. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I left in 1982 and lived in California for 23 years. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in October, 2004. For five years, I lived in Atlanta, was very active in ministry at my church, and even enrolled in classes studying the Word of God.
One day, my mother, Janice, called me from Cleveland and said: "You need to come home."
I said I couldn't come and she casually said "okay."
A few months later, I got another call from my mother, telling me she wanted and needed for me to come home. I agreed to come visit. When I got to Cleveland, I saw how small she had gotten. I said something was wrong, but she denied it, said she'd just lost a few pounds. So I got on a plane to go back to Georgia.
Soon, my mother called me and said: "I need for you to come home and I need you to come home now."
I told her I would be there. I had to catch my breath and pray. What was I going to do with everything? What about my ministry? My schooling? My furniture? I sold all that I could and put everything else in storage, where it remains today. Now, I'm in Cleveland.
My mother, my sister and I went to visit one of my brothers in prison. My sister and I waited as my mother requested to see the Chaplain. She requested that we have a separate room from all the other visitors and inmates. We wondered why she did this, but when she got us all together, she told us she has lung cancer and brain cancer. Oh my God. … So, now I knew why there was such urgency for me to come to Cleveland.
I never looked at myself as being a caregiver. But I love my mother. How could I stay in Atlanta knowing my mother is sick? So, I found myself going with my mother to her doctor's appointments, driving her in her car, waiting for her through her chemotherapy. She got so sick. My challenge was trying to work and take care of her. There were times when other family members wouldn't come to help and it would be just me!
Oh it hurt so bad! I thought I would die watching one of the family members give her the shots she needed in her stomach. It was harder to watch her as her family fell to pieces and argued with each other. We watched our mother get thinner and thinner to the point her legs couldn't carry her. It hurt to help her put on a pair of Depends underwear because she could no longer control going to bathroom.
I spent hours with her making sure she slept okay, cooking for her. She had mood swings. She asked what day it was. I said Saturday, but she thought it was Sunday. She was so confused, repeating herself over and over. It was challenging for me to help at the same time my life was falling apart. I watched my mother go from a sweet, sweet mother to someone whom I don't know because she was upset, angry and hurting.
I'm so happy that I came when she told me to. I spent seven months with my mother. I would go to her house and just kneel down on the floor and pray for healing, and I believe God heard my prayer. This time of difficulty and uncertainty taught me how to be more humble and gave me the strength to keep going myself when I saw she was getting weaker and weaker.
Being a caregiver isn't easy. Your patience at times will be tested. You will be tested on everything. There were times when the nurses showed up and she yelled at them and told them to leave. She would even tell me to go, leave her alone. "Your prayers are not working," she said, but all it did was keep me praying, going to God asking for Him to help me through it all.
My mother passed away Dec. 19, 2009. She was only 68 years old. I'm still here in Cleveland and still paying for storage of my things in Atlanta. Plus, I found myself with no place to live after Mom lost her home.
After Mom died, her father, who is 89 years old, fell off a ladder. The family looked to me to help. They said it would be perfect: "She has no place of her own, nor does she have a steady income. We're all working. We can't stop working to take care of him." So, now I'm my grandfather's caregiver. He is very cantankerous, but I'm able to deal with helping him because I know when people get older they change. I'm able to cook for him, clean for him, wash his clothes and clean his house, even though he tells me every day that "this my house; get your own house."
I ask God to give me the strength to keep going. He must have a plan for me - a big one to have to endure all this. Through it all, I know in time I will have my own place, and, prayerfully, a steady income. Thank you for the opportunity to share what a caregiver endures. God bless.
Read more Boomerang...