Monday, November 21, 2011

The Two Who Have Become One

It's Monday and that means it's time for a look at someone who inspires me.

Since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, it seems appropriate that I write about family. Not just any family, though. This is family that I've grown up with, fought with, fought beside, been mean to, been kind to and everything in-between. I'm talking about my sister and her husband. Some, those who don't read beyond this paragraph, will assume I've taken the easy way out on this topic. That's hardly the truth.

My sister is married to a saint of a man. David is, simply put, one of the nicest guys ever put on the earth. He's not a softy or a sissy. In fact, he's far more manly than I've ever been or will ever be. He speaks softly but deeply. He works with his hands, tears apart motors, puts them back together and looks for the next one to work on. He manages the shop of a semi-truck dealership. He can dissassemble an entire 1966 Mustang in horrid condition, repair everything that's wrong with it, rebuild the motor and give it to his only child for her high school graduation present. All of this manliness is tempered with a kind and gentle heart. He loves his wife and daughter unconditionally and he expresses that love and devotion to them in ways that few others could.

My sister, on the other hand, is loud and, well...obnoxious at times. She'll compliment you if it's earned but she'll criticize you if you tick her off. Here's an example: She will order from a fast food place, pull up to the window, pay and then wait. If, God forbid, the worker bee at the window foolishly says, "Would you please pull up to the yellow line? We'll bring your food out to you?" She is just as likely to respond with, "No, I won't. This is a fast food place. If you can't fix it fast you shouldn't fix it at all." I have a theory that certain fast food chains actually hire her to go through their drive-thru lines just to see if the newbies are cut out for the job. That's the brash side of her.

The kinder, gentler side of my sister shines through when she is helping others. I think it's fitting that she works as an HR person for a mental health establishment. She has the right stuff to be an HR director. She can have the tough conversations and she can be very gracious and welcoming. She's also meticulous in her work. Very, very meticulous. When she speaks of her job, she often talks more about the needs of the clients they serve or the various trials and tribulations of the employees who work for the organization. She is genuinely concerned about them and their welfare and, I know for a fact, she has helped them out with her own time and money. Underneath that brash exterior, there's a beautiful heart and soul.

So, now you know a bit about each of them. What you don't know is that on top of both of them working stressful jobs that require far more than 40 hours per week, and on top of raising a beautiful and magnificent daughter, and on top of them both doing volunteer and charity work; they are taking care of David's octogenarian mother. (David has a brother who is also very involved in his mother's care but lives in Manhattan.)

If you've never cared for an elderly person who is in declining health, the magnitude of what they are doing may elude you. Let me help you understand what's going on in their lives.

They get up early in the morning, work 8-10 hour days, and then one or both of them drive around 30 miles north to check on David's mother who resides in a nursing home. David's mother is a genteel, Southern lady. She exudes elegance and grace. It's easy to see where David gets his kind heart and good manners. Now, he and my sister must watch the daily decline in health of his mother. If you've cared for someone who is in declining health, you know the emotional and physical toll it can take on you. David and Kathy are living that life. As the elegant life of David's mother slowly slips away, David and Kathy sit with her, console her, and help her in ways few will ever know of.

I could go on and on about their dedication and devotion to David's mother but I'll give you one illustration that, I think, sums it all up.

The cost of residential care for David's mother is exorbitant. Her stay was being taken care of by Medicare, but that has run out. So, in order to help his mother, David and Kathy have decided to sell their home, buy his mother's home and use the money from the sale to pay for her continued healthcare. David and Kathy have a beautiful ranch style home. The landscaping is stunning and all of it was done by David. David loves rose bushes and he buys these crazy varieties that require a ton of care. He plants them, fertilizes them, runs an irrigation system to them, prunes them and does everything possible to keep them alive and flourishing. He can talk for hours about rose bushes and he does so with an enthusiasm that is contagious to even the most uninterested listener.

The example that my sister and her husband set for me and my wife and for others who know them is nothing short of outstanding. They make the right choice every time when it comes to helping his mother. They make the most difficult choices with ease and grace and elegance. Many, including myself, could learn valuable lessons from them.

The Bible tells us that others should know we are Christians by our actions and that when we marry, that the two should become one. Kathy and David are surely examples of Christ's commandments to feed the hungry, care for the sick and dying, to love one another, and to love your parents. They have also become the embodiment of "becoming one".

During this Thanksgiving week, I would ask you to stop for just a moment and to give thanks for people like them. Say a prayer for Kathy, David and David's mother. I know I will.

P.S. Love you Sis and David! (Mom, stop crying and don't make mushy talk about this!)

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