Caregiver Series: Unplanned Caregiver

*To close out our Caregiver series, we have an honest and beautiful account of how care giving can be unexpected yet rewarding.*

Often times we are confronted with unknown challenges that awaken another part of our life. When did we ever think we would be in the position that we are in on today?  Perhaps we never gave it thought…neither did I.

We are all made different and for a very good reason.  We season the places and people we come in contact with when we are fulfilling Gods purpose. However, sometimes days, months and years may go by and special things happen in our life that we think are not part of Gods plan but are necessary for what lies ahead.  I think of seeds and how they are planted deep in the soil. They go through many changes of darkness, watering, drought and are even broken before they begin to sprout and at times they’re even stepped on. But how awesome it is to step into a garden of flowers, a vineyard, and harvest of so many fruits and rejoice and marvel at its beauty. It is a breathtaking experience!! 

Well, my life took a turn many years ago when God gave me my youngest son, the third of three sons I have, and he is now 32 years old. This special son was born with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is considered a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development. Cerebral palsy primarily affects body movement and muscle coordination. Though cerebral palsy can be defined, having cerebral palsy does not define the person that has the condition. Thus, a journey of caretaking began in a very intense way. This journey of caretaking is a path built on love.

Love is wonderful!  Just as Gods is love, knowing Him allows us to experience a flow of tenderness, warmth, strength, courage, perseverance, outlook, vision, hope and so many other marvelous feelings that at times could even be misunderstood. What’s amazing about love is that it just is.

We don’t program ourselves according to circumstances; we just step and do what needs to be done. It’s something that just flows from within in a genuine way and doesn’t stop to process its actions. One operates under a power that is greater than all things, with no regard of time, space, sacrifice, giving, and total rendering. It just happens, it just is and for that I am grateful!!  For me it’s about coming in contact with true love, the love of God. “For God SO loved the world…” John 3:16. I’d like to stop and just praise HIM…Could you stop while reading and lift your hands and praise HIM? Hallelujah God is awesome!!

It’s important that I share my love experience because it has molded me into the person that I am today although I didn’t plan to. I didn’t plan to be a caretaker for so long. I’ve been caring for my younger son living life with cerebral palsy for 32 years.  It’s been a rather interesting task. You see, it’s not just the care, but caring in a whole different way. It’s about understanding the health issues related to the condition,and it’s a rather difficult task because it requires education, research, interaction with a community and resources that have never been reached before. It’s living life in a whole different way. It’s becoming part of life in a new setting. It’s a rewarding experience that opens windows and scenes that forever change our lives. I must say it’s a good change and rewarding because it shows us the unknown and teaches us lessons of strength, courage, forgiveness, self worth, humbleness, and faith. During the early stages of my son’s life the doctors thought he wouldn’t survive. He was very ill with respiratory distress. He had been on ventilators on and off and practically lived at Lenox Hill hospital in New York, New York under the care of an excellent pediatrician, Dr. Joseph Licata. This physician is a tactful, loving, caring doctor. He exercised his profession with a true calling to serve, thereby, allowing his patients to feel at ease. My son, Hector, is alive today thanks to the love and dedication of loving professionals like Dr. Licata, and loving parents, family and friends that allowed God to use them as His vessel. Of course we all know that God is the healer and giver of life. But it’s awesome to find those that take part in HIS divine plan.

I was unable to continue work during the first 7 years of Hectors life. He was critically ill, so I had to resign from my job and dedicate myself to his care. It was very difficult raising my two other boys and caring for Hector, who in addition to being sick was also in a wheelchair. And of course let’s not forget taking care of my husband and home. But, surely I knew that I had to give my all to everyone, and I could do this out of my love for them. Love is a very powerful sentiment that flows in a very natural way. Force: it is not love; to want it is not enough. Yet to dream, it is just a dream. But to have love is unique because once again it just is. The beauty of love is that it’s born through the rendering of ones soul to the great I am: God. Love is magical; when one gives unto others of themselves it is the seed that brings a great harvest.

Hector’s health improved with our move to Florida 25 years ago, and I was able to return to work for some time. Hector attended high school and graduated. He even held two jobs, a very unique experience. No, it’s not a story of living happily ever after like fairy tales. Hector did finish school and transitioning has been difficult for both of us. Job search, education etc. is not what we envisioned. Once again, it’s a task that requires endurance. This is a journey of understanding the mind, body and needs of a disabled person in a real world. Hector and I are on a journey together to discover the gifts, talents, dreams and reality of all things that could help him contribute to a world with diverse needs. As Hector says and I quote, “I am in a wheelchair but my soul is standing! Many are standing physically but are sitting spiritually. I stand because I know I was called to motivate, inspire and impact lives that are in need.” Believe me he’s working on that and I am working hard to help him bring forth what’s in his mind and heart.

Wow, God is awesome!  and I can surely say that although I didn’t plan it, He did and has taught me a lot more of what love is.

So, what have I learned about love?

1.      It flows

2.      Bears all things

3.      Receives the unexpected

4.      Takes on challenges

5.      Waits in motion (doesn’t stop performing while waiting)

6.      Prepares the heart for the unknown

7.      Puts us in contact with Gods attributes

8.      Aligns our thoughts

9.      Gives us courage

10.  Impulses one to do better

11.  Takes us from the comfort zone

12.  Thrusts us to the unknown

13.  Embraces our differences

14.  Gives us a vision beyond reason

15.  It puts us in contact with self

16.  Makes us happy!!

 

So, this is part of my story. I hope it blesses your life and as I titled it, I didn’t plan to but guess what? HE did. And I am here living his love plan for me.

Jeremiah 29:11New International Version (NIV)

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

In HIS love and mine,

Angie Rivera

GAA Supporter and Volunteer